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Proposed bill could have criminal defense applications

Readers may be aware of recently proposed legislation that has sparked debate concerning the use of police license plate readers. These devices are able to scan and record images of license plates, giving law enforcement the chance to locate individuals who have active arrest warrants or are otherwise being sought for questioning. The use of these scanners has become common in Georgia and across the nation, and has led some lawmakers to question the limits that might be placed on the use of the devices. The matter also leads to interesting questions about the criminal defense tactics that might be used in cases that involve these readers.

The recently proposed bill would require police departments to delete captured images 30 days after they were gathered. Those behind the bill assert that, while the devices offer a powerful tool for law enforcement, there is a balance that must be sought between combating crime and protecting the rights of citizens. An additional provision is expected to be added that would prevent police from sharing captured images with federal authorities.

Many people are unaware of how advanced this technology has become in a very short period of time. Readers can be mounted on police vehicles, traffic signals and even road signs. The data that is gathered is not just used to make traffic stops when a "hit" is recorded, it is also being compiled by the Justice Department into a federal database that can track the movement of vehicles across the nation. This, for many, is a violation of an individual's right to privacy.

Should this bill or another like it be passed into law, it would be interesting to see how the change might affect criminal defense strategies. For example, if a police reader captures images that place an individual in the area of a crime at the same time that the crime has taken place, but those images were not deleted after the 30-day window and before the connection was made, how might that evidence be received by a court of law? This is one of many questions that would surround legislation that would serve to limit the reach of law enforcement technology, in Georgia and elsewhere.

Source: www.ajc.com, "Georgia bill would regulate license plate readers used by police", Jeremy Redmon, Jan. 28, 2015

Please see our criminal defense blog for additional entries.

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