Add Calvert County to the list of law enforcement agencies who are scanning every license plate they come near on the road.
These devices are rapidly becoming standard equipment on police cruisers, since they save manpower and generate revenue on their own by instantly identifying driver’s with license suspensions, outstanding criminal warrants, and even potentially parking tickets and municipal back taxes.
These systems are able to scan thousand of license plates per hour with high speed cameras mounted on police vehicles, and connected to computers inside. All plate tags are matched with a database of those associated with cars that may have been stolen, associated with amber alerts, or driver/car owner data that may have any other legal issues.
Police officer’s in the vehicle are instantly alerted to a suspected stolen car the moment they drive near it. Naturally, this is an extremely effective method of using police time efficiently.
The open question of concern to civil libertarians and privacy advocates is “what happens with all this collected data for the 99.99% of people who have done nothing wrong? Their data is still stored and tracked, and that information could be used for illegal monitoring and tracking.
When a photo of a license plate tag is snapped, the photo is stored, along with the date and time, and the exact location of the vehicle as identified by GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) identification.
With all the scanners on the road, it’s easy to imagine how the government can mine this data and put together a historical record of your movements by listing each the time your car was scanned.
They can make lists of every car that was parked near a political demonstration, for example, and then go through all of the other tracked locations of those cars to try to identify any “suspicious” activity, even if it is all completely innocent and %100 legal.
The law has not caught up to many of the implications of the tracking technologies currently employed by law enforcement.
But the bottom line for anyone who may have a suspended driver’s license in Maryland, lapsed insurance, open warrant for failure to appear in court, or other legal issues, beware! These days, you cannot expect to drive and not be identified and caught.
If you have an outstanding criminal warrant, or are arrested for driving on a suspended license, please contact our Maryland criminal defense lawyers to find out how we can help fix your legal problems.
In what appears to be a new trend, use of fixed license plate scanners under the guise of homeland security is coming to Maryland. As reported by wjz, 200 new license plate scanners are going to be deployed by Maryland law enforcement, including 40 at fixed locations.
The New York Times also recently reported that their homeland and countererrorism surveillance efforts would employ automatic license plate scanners on anyone entering Manhattan.
As we’ve mentioned before, thus far, this real-time video scanning technology has largely been used in Maryland directly on police cruisers in order to instantly detect stolen vehicles and drivers with suspended licenses or outstanding warrants.
But it is not surprising that this big brother surveillance technology would find wider and even more insidious applications.
While it makes sense for those who are concerned with governmental intrusion, privacy violations and other civil liberties issues to fight these efforts, it is also important to at least be aware of what is going on.
It is unrealistic for anyone who might have an outstanding warrant for skipping a court date to expect not to be caught. Please contact us if you find yourself in this situation, and are wondering how to get out of it. We can frequently help fix warrant problems, often with little to no additional penalties. Contact us for a criminal defense case evaluation.
Charles County Maryland is getting on the bandwagon of police passive monitoring tools. Here’s the article on the police use of license plate (tag) scanning technology for locating stolen vehicles, stolen or expired tags, and out of date emissions stickers. The device is also effective at locating cars who’s owners may have suspended driver’s licenses or outstanding warrants.
The device works by the video camera scanning and doing optical character recognition (OCR) on the plate images to translate it into numbers and letters. It then compares the license tag to an updated database of tag numbers with Motor Vehicle Administration flags. If there is a match, the officer inside is alerted via a laptop computer.
There are many interesting technical details in the article, including:
- There are two cameras in the standard setup, one pointed forward to scan oncoming traffic, and one on the right side to scan parked cars.
- The scanner works fine in the dark.
- If it can’t distinguish between a 3 and an 8, it simply runs both combinations against its database.
- The device will scan approximately 3000-4000 tags over a typical 8 hour shift.
- The camera is linked to a GPS system, and logs all tags scanned and their location from the past 30 days. So they can look back on historical data if they wish to track your movement in the past.
The last one is particularly scary and big brother-ish. You are being watched all the time. And no doubt the 30 days is arbitrary. I’m sure they can save the data indefinitely if they want to.
The Maryland State police is training officers to operate this system on five additional vehicles. The day is fast approaching when all of you driving is tracked.