SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—Digital Recognition Network Inc. and Vigilant Solutions Inc. have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s outright ban on automatic license plate readers.
The ban “arbitrarily prohibits an activity that is protected in all other settings and violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” the plaintiffs said in a prepared statement.
The Utah Automatic License Plate Reader System Act, which prohibits the use of automated high-speed cameras to photograph license plates in the state of Utah, infringes on constitutionally protected speech and causes the companies imminent and irreparable injury, the companies noted in a prepared statement. The companies are calling for preliminary injunctive relief.
The case could have far-reaching national repercussions as more than 20 states are currently reviewing bills that would curb the use of license plate recognition systems for both private and law enforcement use, the companies noted in the statement. Further, five states have already enacted legislation that is identical or similar to the Utah act.
“Taking and distributing a photograph is an act that is fully protected by the first Amendment,” DRN / Vigilant outside counsel Michael Carvin said in the statement. “The state of Utah cannot claim that photographing a license plate violates privacy. License plates are public by nature and contain no sensitive or private information. Any citizen of Utah can walk outside and photograph anything they please, including a license plate.”
DRN and Vigilant assert that their ALPR systems do the same exact thing any citizen can do – see license plates, interpret the alphanumeric characters, and mentally log where the license plate was seen. ALPR systems can just complete the tasks much faster.
“This law is ill-defined and clearly driven by a national anti-LPR campaign initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),” Mike Moore, former Mississippi State Attorney General and now head of the Mike Moore Law Firm, said in the statement. “ALPR data has proven to be an invaluable tool for law enforcement to solve crimes and apprehend criminals while protecting the privacy of U.S. citizens and fully abiding by the U.S. Constitution. The Legislature has unknowingly created a potential safe haven for pedophiles, rapists, and other serious criminals by preventing law enforcement from having access to LPR data from private companies, and by requiring law enforcement to delete their own data—it just does not make sense from the perspective of the public safety of the citizens of Utah,” according to Moore.