Our View: Limit use of license plate scanners

Jan 11 2013 - 3:06pm

We support planned legislation from state Rep. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, that would limit the use of information compiled by law enforcement from license plate scanners. Under Weiler's legislation, compiled information would only be available in a databank for six months. Also, such information could not be subpoenaed in civil litigation, such as divorce.

Despite the widespread use of license plate scanners by Utah law enforcement, there are no rules on what to do with the information when it is gathered on persons who are innocent of any crime or infraction. Nevertheless, law enforcement, in some cases, is keeping this personal information for as long as two years. This is just another intrusion into personal liberties; a trend that began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some law enforcement professionals argue that keeping the license plate scans can help in investigating in future crimes, including serious ones such as murder. However, that type of thinking clashes with the basic fundamental right of privacy. Citizens have a constitutional right not to be monitored or otherwise tracked by law enforcement if they are not under any suspicion of breaking the law. 

Also, as Weiler has pointed out, it is a creepy misuse of authority to query a person on where they drove almost two years ago, particularly since that information has likely long been forgotten by most individuals.

Random license plate data collection is not a law enforcement procedure that we are comfortable with. However, if it is going to be used often, there must be strict limitations on its use. It is wrong and an insult to our liberties for law enforcement to be able to pore over a person's private driving habits, particularly as fishing expeditions in crimes in which the subjects are not implicated. Weiler's legislation needs to be one of the first bills passed into law. 

And, legislators must show resolve and not be swayed by arguments that this type of snooping is OK in our free society.


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