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Wed May 27, 2015, 08:58 AM

Virginia and Automatic License Plate Readers

Virginia Governor Signs Warrant Requirement for Drones, Rejects License Plate Reader Limits

May 6, 2015 | By Dave Maass

With broad and near-unanimous bipartisan support, the Virginia General Assembly passed a series of bills this year to defend the public’s right to privacy from new mass surveillance technologies.

To his credit, Gov. Terry McAuliffe almost immediately signed a bill to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before tracking people’s mobile phones with cell tower emulators, often called “stingrays.” But he initially balked at two other bills: one that would have also required police to get a warrant before using drones and another that would’ve placed strict limitations on other mass surveillance technologies, including a seven-day limit on the retention of locational data collected through automatic license plate readers (ALPR).

McAuliffe sent these two measures back to the legislature with suggested amendments, who sent them right back to his desk with only the slightest changes. The message was clear: these protections are what Virginians want and what they deserve.

The second time around, McAuliffe signed the drone bill, but he vetoed the ALPR bill, parroting the flawed talking points of the device manufacturers and law enforcement lobby groups:

Virginia man demands cops stop routine scans via license plate reader

State AG* previously found that such "passive" scans violate Virginia's Data Act.

by Cyrus Farivar - May 6, 2015 9:25am EDT

A Virginia man has sued the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) and its chief of police, alleging that the agency has been "unlawfully" collecting information about his license plate in violation of state law.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia on behalf of Harrison Neal, marks a unique legal challenge to the use of automated license plate readers (LPR) by local law enforcement. In 2014, Neal asked via a public records request for all instances in which his car had been read by the FCPD LPR system; the agency provided documentation showing that he had been seen twice in 2014.

* They mean the previous one, Ken Cuccinelli.

Precedent of license plate reader lawsuit against Fairfax hard to tell

By Kathryn Watson / May 21, 2015

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Fairfax County Police Department uses 26 automatic license plate readers to scan drivers’ tags in hopes of catching people breaking the law. ... As of May 20 last year, those cameras meant the department’s ALPR server held 2.7 million records for a county with a population of 1.1 million, according to figures obtained by journalist Stephen Gutowski. ... Two of those records probably belonged to Alexandria resident Harrison Neal, who, with the help of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing the Fairfax County Police Department for storing that information without his knowledge or consent.

“It’s important to recognize that this lawsuit is based on a Virginia statute that is not really similar to a lot of other state statutes,” said Rebecca Glenberg, an ACLU’s legal director who is representing Neal.

“It’s not all collection of the data (that the ACLU opposes), because we do think the law allows the police to scan license plates and compare those license plates against their list of vehicles that they’re looking for in connection with the investigation,” Glenberg said. “But, yes, we hope that the court will agree with our interpretation of the law and Ken Cuccinelli’s interpretation of the law that this other use of the law to store all of the data that is recorded and maintain databases violates the law.”

Two years ago, the ACLU was the first to report that the Virginia State Police used ALPR technology to capture drivers’ plates in 2008 for political rallies for Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. ... On their own accord, the Virginia State Police asked then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli if randomly scanning the time and coordinates of license plates like that was legal. Cuccinelli said it was not, according to the state’s “Data Act,” which generally prohibits government collection of Virginians’ data without consent.

10 a.m. Wednesday: "Ask the Governor." He'll take your calls and questions live.

Ask the Governor: Terry McAuliffe May 27

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be in the Glass Enclosed Nerve center at 10 a.m. Wednesday for "Ask the Governor." He'll take your calls and questions live.

Join the conversation! Click on "Make a Comment" to ask a question or post a comment for Gov. McAuliffe prior to the show.

On the day of the show, call toll free 877-336-1035 or use #askthe on Twitter. Don't forget to listen live to "Ask the Governor" on WTOP: http://bit.ly/1zA3vzF

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