D.Utah: License plate readers can’t be compared to CSLI

Automatic license plate readers showing points where a vehicle was located at various times can’t be compared to CSLI. The officers also had reasonable suspicion during this stop. It also did not violate state law. United States v. Salcido-Gonzalez, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91349 (D. Utah May 21, 2024):

Miller’s use of the LPR system was not a search for Fourth Amendment purposes. On the record here, the LPR system Miller used was unlike GPS Tracking or cell phone tower data information because the LPR system at issue did not operate at the granular level of detail that would expose the intimate details of an individual’s life. Miller explained the limitations of the LPR system: “The vehicle and license plate had been captured by a license plate reader in the Denver area. Denver, like a lot of metropolitan cities, there’s Aurora, Lakewood, so there’s a lot of smaller cities within that corporation; but [the LPR system] just listed as the Denver area.” There was a second license plate capture at the California-Nevada border in Prim, Nevada. Two data points, one of which only pointed generally to a metropolitan area, is not similar to constant GPS or cell tower data. Two license plate locations do not reveal the whole of physical movement or personal facts that would run afoul of Fourth Amendment protections. Other courts looking at LPR systems have reached similar conclusions and found the use of LPR systems to be constitutional.

Undoubtedly as LPR systems and other technologies advance, there will likely be a future time where LPR systems or other similar technologies will need additional scrutiny to see if they violate Fourth Amendment protections. But on the record here concerning the LPR system at issue, there is no evidence that Miller’s use of the LPR system violated the protections of the Fourth Amendment.

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