A bill introduced in the Indiana legislature would prohibit law enforcement from retaining data from license plate readers in most situations, effectively blocking a federal program tapping into such readers on a state-level.Sen. James Smith introduced Senate Bill 236 (SB0236) to prohibit the long-term retention and transfer to others of vehicle information, including location, obtained via Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs).

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the federal government, via the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been tracking the location of millions of cars for nearly eight years, all without a warrant, or even public notice of the policy.

Most of these tracking systems are operated by state and local law enforcement agencies, but are paid for by federal grant money. The DEA then taps into the local database and is able to track the whereabouts of millions of people – for the simple act of driving – without having to operate a huge network itself.

These systems are configured to store the photograph, the license plate number, and the date, time, and location where all vehicles are seen. SB236 states that such “captured plate data may not be transferred or sold to another person.” It also prohibits retention of this data beyond 24 hours, except under three exceptions:

  1. The captured plate data was obtained under a warrant.
  2. A comparison of the data with an alert data base shows that the captured plate data is relevant: (a) an ongoing criminal investigation; (b) the location or identity of a fugitive from justice; (c) the location of a missing person; or (d) the commission of a crime.
  3. The person in whose name the license plate was issued requests retention of the data.”

Since a majority of federal license plate tracking data comes from state and local law enforcement, passage of SB236 would be a big step towards blocking that program from continuing in Indiana.

SB236 has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security & Transportation Committee, where it will need to pass by a majority vote before the full Senate can consider it.

Kelli Sladick

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