San Diego Judge Tentatively Rules Against Access to License Plate Records

A citizen's request for police data gleaned from scanning his license plates may be denied on the grounds they are exempt from the California Public Records Act.

by / September 22, 2014

The founder of MP3.com may not have access to police information gathered through scans of his license plates, according to the Los Angeles Times.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal tentatively denied a request by Michael Robertson to see the data collected on him through license plate scans. The records are retained by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) on behalf of local police. A final ruling on the case is expected this week.

Robertson sued for access to the information on the basis that if no criminal investigation on him is being conducted, retainment of the data is illegal. SANDAG disagreed, categorizing the records as police investigation records and exempt from the California Public Records Act.

The association maintains a repository of license plate data for police that is used in investigations such as stolen cars. A Los Angeles judge rejected a claim similar to that of Robertson's in August.

License plate readers and retention policies for the data they collect has been a controversial across the U.S. While cops like what they see with automated license plate readers (ALPRs), privacy experts remain concerned about how long law enforcement officials are hanging on to the information they collect.

Maryland has hundreds of ALPRs installed, as does Los Angeles and Seattle. But some places, such as New Hampshire, have ruled against the technology's use, citing privacy concerns.