License Plate Readers

License Plate Readers create unnecessary surveillance that Montana does not need. With our Montana values, low population, open roads, big skies and freedom loving attitudes, paying for the surveillance of innocent individuals and creating a map of everyone’s past whereabouts is not the path Montana needs to take.

“Automatic license plate readers have the potential to create permanent records of virtually everywhere any of us has driven, radically transforming the consequences of leaving home to pursue private life, and opening up many opportunities for abuse. The tracking of people’s location constitutes a significant invasion of privacy, which can reveal many things about their lives, such as what friends, doctors, protests, political events, or churches a person may visit.” -ACLU

I introduced a bill in 2015 to prohibit the use of automated license plate readers in Montana. My intent was to ban them, and if law enforcement wanted to use them, they would need to come before the legislature and make a compelling case to change the law to allow for this potentially egregious violation of privacy.

The bill passed the House but died in a Senate committee.

In 2017, I sponsored the bill again and worked closely with members of the law enforcement community to allow the use of these devices, but under very tight scrutiny. The data must be deleted within 90 days, can not be shared without a warrant requiring specific license plates, and will not be shared with the Federal Government’s national tracking database. Still, law enforcement could use these devices to locate criminal activity. This was a win-win situation and the bill passed into law.

Bill highlights:

•Limits the use of automated license plate scanners by state and local governments.

•Prevents the sharing of data with a Federal Government DEA tracking program.

•Allows for exceptions, including: ports of entry, virtual weigh stations for commercial vehicles, and parking enforcement by city governments.

The text of the bill can be found here.

The full page about the bill can be found here.