As you very well may know, many cops today are equipped with technology that can scan and track license plates on their cars. This technology is known as Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR). Currently, no warrant is needed for the cops to track your license plate and recently, a federal judge upheld that no warrant is needed.
According to TheNewspaper.com:
Such cameras were key to an April 2016 investigation of mail being pilfered from a post office in Las Vegas, Nevada. Postal inspectors used normal cameras to record a man in a GMC Yukon “fishing” through the affected mailboxes. That is, he dropped a string with adhesive material into the box so that he could pull the letters out. Jay Yang rented the Yukon seen in the video.
The investigators then turned to the massive license plate surveillance database maintained by Vigilant Solutions to obtain a travel history on the vehicles Yang had been using. A little over a third of Vigilant’s database comes from government cameras and two-thirds from cameras mounted on private tow trucks. The database provided a report giving the Yukon’s location, which allowed postal inspectors to set up a sting. A judge issued a warrant to search Yang’s residence, which was found to have a stash of stolen mail, forged money orders and other illegal items.
US District Judge Richard F. Boulware II was the judge presiding over the case. He found that the warrantless use of the surveillance equipment was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. His reasoning was that motorists should be expecting to have a lesser degree of privacy while on the road. The United States Supreme Court ruled that restrictions be placed on warrantless use GPS trackers in US vs. Jones, which Boulware acknowledged, but he noted that the main objection in the Jones case was that the GPS tracker was used to follow suspects onto private property.
“The court finds that the license plate image of the GMC Yukon and the location of the observation in the [Vigilant Solutions] LEARN detection report was obtained from a digital camera while the GMC Yukon was on a public street and before it entered into any private property or private gated community,” ruled Boulware. “Yang does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the observation (and location of the observation) of the license plate of the vehicle he is driving on public streets with other vehicles.”
Boulware argued that there intrusion of privacy under the Fourth Amendment because agents never searched anything that belonged to Yang.
“The court does not find that there was any form of ‘electronic trespass’ that might implicate a reasonable expectation of privacy,” wrote Boulware. “The location information in this case was not generated by Yang electronically or digitally surrendering private or confidential information to a third-party working in cooperation with law enforcement.”