Should law enforcement be able to retain your license plate info indefinitely?

Posted at 11:56 PM, Feb 05, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-05 23:56:49-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Legislation currently being considered by the Virginia General Assembly would prevent the indefinite retention of data that police collect using license plate readers (LPRs).

Right now, some agencies keep that information, collected in a photo of your license plate, indefinitely. However, some lawmakers are pushing to change the time frame.

Martha Meade with AAA Mid-Atlantic said she understands that a license plate reader can serve as an essential tool in reducing car thefts and removing wanted criminals from the streets.

However, she said it could be a privacy issue; the fact that there is no law limiting how long the information can be in the database.

Delegate Richard Anderson's bill, HB 1673 is headed to a full committee. State Senator Chap Peterson's bill SB965 bill is being heard by the full Senate. Both bills ask that the information in the system be limited to seven days.

Kevin Carroll, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police of Virginia, said he understands the logic behind the bills, but doesn't believe that a week is a reasonable amount of time.

"What we know through investigations is that sometimes what happens today is planned weeks in advance, the terrorist attack or the sniper shootings that took place, those were planned weeks in advance," said Carroll.

"If police have two years of data where any person is in their car at any given time you can imagine what that data could be used for if it got in the wrong hands," said Meade.

Carroll said he wants people to know that police can only run information if they have a reason to do so. He said what's being stored is just the picture of the license plate.

Still, Meade said they hope they all can come to some sort of agreement.