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Are local police playing fair with its technology?

Proposed legislation is taking aim at a technological measure used by police that could potentially be an infringement on the rights of local motorists. Automatic license plate recognition systems are used to scan license plates. The plate is then crosschecked with a police database to see if the vehicle has been associated with a number of difference offenses.

Results could show if the vehicle's license is suspended or if the plate had expired, prompting a costly traffic citation. The system also checks any cases of stolen cars or license plates to see if the driver may be implicated in any such crimes. This is all done before a driver is even pulled over.

A Democratic lawmaker representing Columbia said that this could be thought of as an invasion of a driver's privacy, and that the information could easily get in the wrong hands. This technology is currently used on patrol cars, and there are no laws in place that would stop authorities from installing the same technology everywhere along the road. The lawmaker said he did not like the idea of the government being able to constantly monitor a driver's whereabouts.

A captain with the Florence County Sheriff's Department argued that the technology is not doing anything that police officers do not already do manually. The only advantage to using the technology is that it speeds up the process enormously.

The technology also takes a photograph of the driver's license plate, but proponents for the measure have pointed out that the driver does not actually own the license plate - the Department of Transportation does.

This has been a legal issue in the past, when a U.S. court of appeals heard a case in 2011 where a driver alleged that the technology violated his fourth amendment rights. The court denied the claim.

Do you think it is fair for police to constantly monitor you and check your plate even when you haven't done anything wrong?

Source: SCNow.com, "Pee Dee police oppose bill to outlaw license plate readers," Traci Bridges, Christopher McKagen, Jan. 12, 2013

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