A Virginia man has sued the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) and its chief of police, alleging that the agency has been “unlawfully” collecting information about his license plate in violation of state law.
The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia on behalf of Harrison Neal, marks a unique legal challenge to the use of automated license plate readers (LPR) by local law enforcement. In 2014, Neal asked via a public records request for all instances in which his car had been read by the FCPD LPR system; the agency provided documentation showing that he had been seen twice in 2014.
The case alleges that the FCPD, through its “passive” collection and storage of massive amounts of data (license plate number, date, time and GPS location) contravenes the Virginia Data Act of 1976. Passive collection is distinct from the FCPD’s “active” use of the data, when it scans an unknown plate against a “hot list” of wanted or stolen vehicles and determines that the unknown plate is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
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