License Plate Readers Are Being Used in California

Oct 13, 17 by Jorian Goes

License Plate Readers Are Being Used in California

Automated Plate Recognition is Being Tested Statewide

Law enforcement is always looking for advanced ways to enforce current statues and improve traffic conditions. California highways are large, busy, congested, and complicated. Depending on the time of day of travel, a particular intersection or area can be at maximum capacity limiting officers capability of maintain control and identifying motorists that are breaking any law. Alternatively, it could be changes in the area that a police official cannot particularly pinpoint the person with faulty driving behaviors. Whatever the situations, technology provides a more designated way of traffic control.

Is Automated Enforcement an Invasion of Privacy?

Automated Number Plate Recognition also known as ANPR in Europe or automated license plate recognition (ALPR) are used to capture data information for no more than 60 days, unless that data is being utilized as evidence in the investigation of a felony. Stipulations mandate that the records obtained by license plate recognition are prohibited from being shared with any other company or agency that is not law enforcement or any person who is not an agent of law enforcement.

Any persons suspected or vehicles involved in the commission of a public offense are subjected to reasonable review of records obtained and monitored by an ALPR.

Also, secure measures are in place to ensure no breach of information by unauthorized users. Three ways automated number plate recognition are utilized in the scenarios below:

  • Toll roads are not always staffed with a person. There are drivers who unintentionally drive through a toll and those who intentionally drive through a toll. ALPR allow a photograph of the license plate to be taken and a bill mailed later for payment.
  • Law enforcement value resources that assist them in effectively and efficiently doing their job. Quick access to information can mean a world of difference in an Amber alert, a stolen vehicle, or completing an arrest warrant.
  • We all have a family member or friend with risky driving behavior. They are the ones that have the tendency to speed, run through a red light, or make quick turns before checking the light, traffic signs, or their surroundings.

In any of the above circumstances, ALPR provide permitted officials with vehicle and security access. They also offer advantages to law enforcement in unlikely instances.

The time of California police agencies bringing forth information from license plate scanning may be near. Open dialogue from the public has created the window of opposition regarding the privacy of information collected. California police agencies are forced to take another look.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (AMCL) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 2013 is requesting that Los Angeles police hand over samples of information the ALPR was collecting. In conclusion, of the trial, a state judge noted potential misuse of plate scanning system, however, stated that such records could not be provided under public records act because pictures obtained were in an investigative nature. The Court of Appeal concurred. However, the high court justices provided a reminder that the state court constitutional duty is to give the public access to those particular records collected.

Automated Enforcement is a Controversial Topic

Justice Ming W. Chin wrote that the unintended exemptions of data collected by the plate scanning and other technologies on a broad basis are not harmful. The harm in not disclosing data has weak origin by the disclosure of the ALPR, but it would be more harmful leaving out that which are helpful in the best interest of the public than those in traditional investigation information. Chin further stated that by isolation of single information, there lies a reason for scrutiny of data collected for a specific reason of investigation.

California Public Records Act exemptions require records be narrowly read by rights given in our constitution. Due to the fact that reviews are conducted for a particular reason or crime, the process of scanning through the ALPR does not produce records of investigation. Lastly, the high courts would not release unredacted information that could pinpoint the location of vehicles using their license plate numbers; however, the high courts did submit information on whether unidentified records could satisfy the request of the ACLU and EFF without unjustifiably affecting the privacy of motorists.