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Illinois Senate Looks to Restrict License Plate Reader Use

Posted on in Traffic violations

license plate reader, ALPR, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyA new piece of law enforcement technology is raising serious privacy concerns as more and more states, including Illinois, begin to employ it. The technology in question is an automatic license plate reader (ALPR). The reader takes photographs of license plates and stores them in a database along with the associated location, creating a file of where specific vehicles were at specific times. Although these ALPR systems have legitimate benefits and have helped solve crimes, they present significant privacy issues. At present the police have the authority to store this information about millions of motorists without due cause for a considerable amount of time. A new bill introduced in the Illinois senate is designed to place limits on the use and retention of ALPR data in order to preserve the privacy of citizens.

Automatic License Plate Readers

ALPRs are new law enforcement tools that can track the movement of a variety of vehicles. The system consists of a set of up to four cameras facing various directions installed on road and highway locations, or mounted on police vehicles. The cameras are programmed to automatically capture the license plates of passing cars or, in the case of police car-mounted cameras, the plates of vehicles nearby. The ALPR then sends the image to a police database, time-stamped and tagged with a GPS location. Additionally, if the camera is mounted on a squad car, it can also inform the officer of any outstanding warrants or traffic issues associated with that license plate.

In essence, these ALPRs create a record of where many different cars go and when they were there. This has obvious law enforcement benefits. For instance, it can help find missing persons, or it can relate vehicles to locations of repeated, similar crimes. However, license plate readers do not discriminate in regard to who they photographs. They also photograph innocent citizens' cars, even when they are not actually being driven. Consequently, it can create a police record of a person going about their private business, such as attending political events or substance abuse counseling.

The New Bill

To address these concerns, Senator Daniel Biss recently introduced Senate Bill 1753. SB 1753 would place serious limitations on the use of ALPRs by police. Rather than using the system indiscriminately, the bill would require officers to make a determination that the car on which they are using the system was actually involved in a criminal or missing persons investigation. The use of ALPRs to collect tolls and other limited uses would still be permitted, but the legislation would end the unrestricted collection of data by law enforcement without due cause.

New technology is constantly providing the police with increasingly more surveillance power, and the law is constantly changing in order to protect people's rights. If you are facing criminal charges and think your rights may have been violated, contact a Kane County criminal defense attorney today.

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