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May 23, 2019

Today, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Robert Smith denied a motion from the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) that asked the court to reverse its decision prohibiting the passive use of automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) for surveillance by FCPD. The judge’s ruling, coupled with his refusal to limit the effect of his decision to Mr. Neal, the plaintiff in the case, means the FCPD will continue to be allowed to use ALPRs in specific criminal investigations but will be prohibited from using ALPRs to collect data randomly on motorists in Fairfax who are not suspected of any wrongdoing and store the data for some unspecified future use.

“This ruling allows local law enforcement to protect community safety without compromising the privacy of all motorists in Fairfax,” said Eden Heilman, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director. “This decision is a victory for everyone concerned about the privacy implications of the increasing use by law enforcement of technology like ALPRs, public cameras with or without facial recognition technology, and Shotspotter, an audio hearing device used to alert police to gunshots,” she continued. “Law enforcement can keep us safe without monitoring the comings and goings of people's daily lives.”