New Toy For The National Surveillance State

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

The new toy is Automatic License Plate Reader/Recognition (ALPR), and a cool toy it is. It basically reads every license plate its cameras see and compares that data to a list. That list might contain the license plates of stolen vehicles, the license plates of drivers with suspended licenses or no insurance, and “Amber Alerts.” This all happens automatically, in real-time.

The systems also stores the date and time of every license plate and the corresponding GPS coordinates, even for law-abiding citizens. Therein lies the potential for abuse.

Federal grants for ALPRs, given to cities and towns, come with the stipulation that all data must be submitted to the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), a massive government database in hills of West Virginia. It won’t be long before the federal and state governments will require all license plates be ALPR-compliant, that is, easy for ALPRs to read.

As explained by the LAPD Chief of Detectives, the “real value” of the ALPR “comes from the long-term investigative uses of being able to track vehicles—where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing.”

ALPR does the same thing as a police officer does, it reads the plate, it compares the plate to a list, and it remembers what it sees and where it sees it. The courts have held that police officers can run license plates at their discretion without violating the Fourth Amendment.

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.

The Supreme Court denied the writ of certiorari in the case of Curtis Ellison, Petitioner v. United States.

H/T: Kade Crockford, ACLU, Boston Herald.

31 thoughts on “New Toy For The National Surveillance State”

  1. Maybe we need to install anti-paparazzi “shields” on cars.

    Ambramovich has installed an anti-paparazzi “shield”. Lasers sweep the surroundings and when they detect a CCD, they fire a bolt of light right at the camera to obliterate any photograph.

  2. FFLEO,

    People do not understand…I was talking today to a paramedic/fireman who see’s absolutely nothing wrong with the concept, because we have so many illegals that are uninsured……..Needless to say my conversation was short after that….I personally know LEO’s that have misused the information that they had 10 years ago…I am scared to know what they would do with that information today….

  3. A decade ago while still in LE, I was an advocate for national IDs and as much database information in all categories about citizens as possible to help protect and serve everyone in the most efficient manner possible. After all, I was naïve enough—even in my 50s—to think that such information would remain strictly confidential and protected and that LEOs were all honest, ethical, and had the best interests of the citizenry in mind. Suffice to say, I could not have been more wrong.

    We have lost our cherished privacy to the false banner of terrorism and it will nevermore return whole to its former state anymore than a person could reassemble a billion multi-fractured eggshell fragments into a whole eggshell…

  4. So what we have here is a national ID system in the works? without any public acknowledgement. yippee, again!, for Fatherland … err, “Homeland” Security

    glad I live in a state (OR) that hasn’t implemented this (yet?). we get date stickers upon renewing, which change color for easy recognition by LE; our current sticker is day-glow magenta!

    our actual physical plate is maybe 10yo…. (since somebody ripped off ONE plate in a shopping mall parking lot for some scam or other!) no sign of a holo-anything on it, but there is a design element and open space in the center….

  5. Well, people could do what my neighbor has done: never put the plates on the vehicle. She has been driving with the plastic dealership ad plate instead, and the white transfer notice taped to her windshield, for 6 or 7 years now, without a problem.

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