The Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) scanning systems are one of the newest law enforcement technologies. The system consists of cameras mounted on police cars, hooked up to a computer inside the vehicle. License plates images are scanned and matched to a real-time centralized database. This database flags vehicles that have been identified as
- Stolen Vehicles
- Wanted for an Amber Alert
- Expired Registration
- Expired Insurance
- Wanted as “Persons of Interest” for any investigation
- Suspended Driver’s License
- Outstanding Criminal Warrant
- Outstanding Municipal Taxes or other Fines and Fees
- Are Wanted for any other government purpose
The system is matched to the vehicle’s owner via a DMV database. So, you can just be driving along and find yourself pulled over by the police, not having committed any traffic violation.
How Many License Tags Can Be Scanned?
Short answer: thousands of tags per hour. One police car parked on the side of a road can scan just about every car in sight, including one driving in the opposite direction at 70 miles an hour. (No, the answer is not to drive 80 mph +.)
What Happens To The Scanned Images?
Every image is time, date and location saved. Permanently. So now reports of your driving locations (whether you were stopped or not) have become records and collected into various databases: those of state and local law enforcement, DMVs and the FBI‘s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
The Problem, You Ask?
As more systems go online and interconnect across local, state and federal jurisdictions, police can easily identify the touch points of any scanned tag’s vehicle location.
You can easily imagine the knock on your door if you (probably unknowingly… I allot the benefit of the doubt), stopped in front of a known drug dealing location, parked by a wanted person’s vehicle or passed a toll directly behind a person suspected of a crime. BTW, how many times have you attended political events? Call the cops, they’ll let you know.
The truth is that the use this placement data can be used as circumstantial evidence against you and we’ll soon find many innocent people in court, defending their drive down Main Street.
Aren’t These License Tag Scanners Violating My Rights??
No. According to the law, you have no expectation of privacy while out in public. This has already been through the courts which have upheld that police officers are allowed to randomly run license tags as they pass by.
In the case of United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Charles N. Matthews, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that a “license plate was in plain view on the outside of the car” and hence, is “subject to seizure” because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
In the case of United States of America, Plaintiff v. Curtis Ellison, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held:
Thus, so long as the officer had a right to be in a position to observe the defendant’s license plate, any such observation and corresponding use of the information on the plate does not violate the Fourth Amendment.
These new ALRP scanning systems simply allow the scanning to be more comprehensive in the number of tags scanned and permanent.
Someone should be asking if any restrictions exist on the use of this data to check up on ordinary Joes and Janes, going about their regular business.
BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy.
As always, stay safe.