Michigan bill would regulate license plate readers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Spurred by concerns over personal privacy and domestic spying programs, one Michigan state lawmaker is working on a bill that would regulate the use of license plate readers by law enforcement.

License plate readers can be mounted on patrol cars or alongside roadsides and bridges. High-speed cameras and software are used to capture images of license plates. Plate numbers are scanned and cross-checked with numbers included on a “hotlist.” If a plate hits, officers are alerted and can pursue or pull over the vehicle.

Cameras to capture the date, time and location that scan vehicles are used in some capacity in 40 states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said the U.S. Constitution demands a certain level of privacy for all people, but he said people must remain diligent in enforcing the right.

“Broad-stroke electronic monitoring methods such as license plate readers raise concerns, and we need to act proactively to ensure the right balance between effective law enforcement and a person’s privacy is maintained,” Singh said in a news release.

Singh wants to prohibit license plate readers from recording pictures of drivers, require that local department level policies govern their use, and allow the attorney general’s office to ban use of the technology at agencies found in violation.

The bill would also mandate that license plate records collected by the readers must be deleted from data systems within 48 hours of collection. An exception would be made when the record is linked to criminal activity.

“My legislation lays out in clear terms what is acceptable and what is not in monitoring and storing data collected on innocent citizens,” Singh stated.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan, click here.

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