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Does NJ's Increase in ALPR Use Threaten Citizens' Privacy?

New Jersey has seen an uptick in auto theft rates in recent years. Governor Phil Murphy boldly responded to the trend by allocating $10 million to increase the state's use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs). These high-tech devices can scan hundreds to thousands of license plates every minute, aiding in spotting stolen vehicles or cars involved in auto-related crimes.

With ALPRs on the roads, New Jersey is working hard to fight against rising auto theft rates and other crimes. Yet, this increased use is not necessarily good news for innocent citizens.

Conflicting Stances on ALPRs

ALPRs will start appearing in more and more places: on light posts, overpasses, and street signs. Some law enforcement agencies might even equip the devices on patrol vehicles for special situations.

The precision of the ALPR images is remarkable, as it can provide crisp details to police, including the license plate numbers and the make, model, and color of a particular vehicle. The information aids law enforcement officials in investigating crimes and identifying suspects, essentially decreasing auto-related offenses such as vehicle theft and kidnapping.

Although ALPR systems offer many benefits for time-sensitive police work, they could threaten innocent citizens. Critics worry that the extensive data collection of all license plates could jeopardize the privacy of citizens who are not necessarily suspected of wrongdoing. After all, limiting the systems to only scanning vehicles suspected to be involved in auto-related crime is impossible. Even completely innocent people will have their information collected.

Still, proponents argue that with the proper safeguards, innocent citizens won't have to worry about the use of ALPRs.

Regulating the Collection and Use of ALPR Data

According to a Brennan Center for Justice report, ALPR scans could violate a person's constitutional rights.

The New Jersey State Attorney General's Office issued guidelines for using ALPRs and storing data. For instance, police departments are to have a trained coordinator ensuring that searches on vehicles are conducted only if there's a link to criminal activity. Additionally, the information ALPRs collect should be stored for only three years.

Ideally, these and other guidelines that may be developed will help keep everyone safe without compromising anyone's rights.

Contact an Attorney for Help with Your Case

As New Jersey begins and continues to adopt ALPR technology, the state will likely see an increase in traffic violation charges. Drivers might be cited for running a red light, speeding, driving with an expired registration, and other offenses.

Those issued a ticket can benefit from retaining the services of a lawyer versed in New Jersey's traffic laws.

If you need help fighting your citation, schedule a consultation with Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C. by calling (212) 235-1525 today.