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New Police Technology Raises Privacy Concerns

Posted on in Criminal Law

new police technology, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyPolice forces in Illinois have a new tool available to help track criminals and solve crimes; however, it is raising serious concerns about civil liberties and the privacy of law-abiding citizens. The new technology, an automated license plate reader (ALPR), can be mounted on squad cars or at fixed points along roads, and can log every license plate seen by the device.

The fact that these arrays capture every license plate indiscriminately has raised questions of whether they violate people's Fourth Amendment rights. Additionally, because the technology is so new, there are currently no regulations on the use of the readers or how long the police can store the data. However, a bill in committee in the Illinois Senate would change that by placing restrictions on when police may use the readers and the length of time that they can store the data.

Automated License Plate Readers

The license plate readers are made up of an array of four different cameras linked to a GPS system. The cameras photograph any license plate that they see, and then attach the current GPS location, storing it in a database for later review. Additionally, if the array is attached to a squad car, the computer system can also check for outstanding warrants or other flags on any recorded license plate and then alert the officer in the car.

Privacy Issues

These ALPR systems raise issues of privacy because of the indiscriminate way in which they capture license plate data. The cameras cannot tell whether a car is on the road or in a parking lot or driveway. This means that the cameras can end up producing a record of when people leave their houses by accident. They can also develop records of sensitive locations that people have been, which they may not want permanently logged, such as trips to religious institutions or gun stores.

A New Bill to Regulate ALPRs

In order to mitigate these concerns, there is a new bill in the Illinois Senate that places a variety of restrictions on the police's use of the ALPRs. One key restriction is that it only allows the police to store ALPR data for 30 days, unless certain exceptions apply such as the data's relevance to an ongoing criminal investigation. Additionally, the law limits the use of ALPR systems to certain circumstances such as toll collection, traffic enforcement, and certain criminal missing person's investigation involving manually entered license plate data.

New technologies constantly present new issues at the nexus of law enforcement and civil rights. If you have recently been charged with a crime and want to ensure that your rights are being respected, contact a skilled McHenry County criminal defense attorney today for more information about options for handling your case.

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