Virginia Senate Votes 38-0 to Limit ALPRs, Federal License Plate Tracking Scheme

RICHMOND, Feb. 6, 2015 – A bill passed by the Virginia Senate today would put strict limitations on the use of Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) by law enforcement in the state, putting significant roadblocks in the way of a federal program using states to help track the location of millions of everyday people through pictures of their license plates. The vote was 38-0.

Senate Bill 965 (SB965), introduced by Senators Peterson and Black reads, in part:

law-enforcement agencies shall be allowed to collect information from license plate readers, provided such information (i) is held for no more than seven days and (ii) is not subject to any outside inquiries or internal usage, except in the investigation of a crime or missing persons report.

The key section of the bill is the prohibition on data from ALPRs being used by “outside inquiries.”

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the federal government, via the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), has been tracking the location of millions of cars for nearly eight years, all without a warrant, or even public notice of the policy.

Most of these tracking systems are operated by state and local law enforcement agencies, but are paid for by federal grant money. The DEA then taps into the local database and is able to track the whereabouts of millions of people – for the simple act of driving – without having to operate a huge network itself.

By prohibiting “outside inquiries,” SB965 bans this kind of data-sharing that the DEA relies on to track millions of people whose only crime is driving.