License Plate Cameras

Ban on Government License Plate Cameras Nears in Montana

Big Sky Country, now with less creepiness.

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Cops in Big Sky Country aren't happy about it, but Montana lawmakers look ready to ban the use of license plate cameras by government agencies to track motorists' movements. The legislative move comes after a stream of revelations of local, state, and federal tracking and databasing of Americans' movements by car, without cause or warrant.

A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security killed a solicitation for bids to establish and maintain "a National License Plate Recognition (NLPR) database service" after a chorus of public outrage. The DHS plan may actually have been duplication of effort, since the DEA already has a national license plate scanning system maintained with the cooperation of local police. If passed, the Montana measure couldn't block such efforts from D.C., but it would prevent agencies within the state from contributing to those schemes. 

Approved by the House Judiciary Committee on February 13, HB 344 states "an agency or employee of the state or any subdivision of the state may not use, either directly or indirectly, a license plate scanner on any public highway," with limited exceptions. Those exceptions include weigh stations for commercial trucks, city planning so long as driver and vehicle anonymity was maintained, parking control, and tracking government vehicles.

Interestingly, in a move clearly aimed at preventing technological end runs by police agencies, the bill defines "license plate scanners" broadly.

In this section, "license plate scanner" means a device principally designed and primarily used for determining the ownership of a motor vehicle, the mileage or route traveled by a motor vehicle, the location or identity of a motor vehicle, or the identity of a motor vehicle's occupants on the public highways, as defined in 60-1-103, through the use of a camera or other imaging device or any other device, including but not limited to a transponder, cellular telephone, global positioning satellite, e-z pass AUTOMATED ELECTRONIC TOLL COLLECTION SYSTEM, automated license plate recognition system, or radio frequency identification device that by itself or in conjunction with other devices or information can be used to determine the ownership of a motor vehicle or the identity of a motor vehicle's occupants or the mileage, location, or route traveled by the motor vehicle.

According to local press coverage, during the committee hearing on the bill, the measure was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Libertarian Party, and opposed by police.

"This bill ties the hands of law enforcement. In advance," complained Larry Epstein of the Montana Association of Police Chiefs.

Well, yeah. That's the idea.

Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings), the bill's sponsor, is a young hotshot among liberty-leaning Republicans. Forbes has him on its "30 under 30" list of law and policy movers and shakers. Zolnikov describes himself as "a strong believer in gun rights, civil rights concerning our freedoms and liberties, limited government, a simplified tax code, economic freedom and a competitive job environment." His specialty is privacy issues, and he's currently sponsoring a media shield bill in addition to the measure to protect motorists' privacy. He details his votes and positions on Facebook.

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  1. BAN IT.

    Oh, wait. This is a good ban.

    Now try to enforce it.

    1. there ought to be a law…

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    3. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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  2. And that yoga pants banner has since said he was joking (even though he probably wasn’t).

    Montana is on the rise.

    1. Is that the same type of rise Brazil has been on for the last century? The perpetual next big thing rise?

      1. Brazil has the worst bureaucracy and import regulations in the world. If they would get rid of that nightmare they probably would be an economic power.

        In spite of it all, they have come a long way in the past few decades.

        But, no, Montana is not the same.

        1. they’ve always come a long way in the past few decades. they are the perpetual next thing that will never be.

          1. Well, they aren’t going to be the next USA, but they are something.

            Are you saying that Brazil hasn’t come a long way? Or do you have some magical ability to predict the future?

            1. I’m saying anything- almost without exclustion- someone labels as having come a long way and/or being the next big thing will not be and has not really.

        2. Brazil has the worst bureaucracy and import regulations in the world. If they would get rid of that nightmare they probably would be an economic power.

          Not to mention the ridiculously high consumption taxes on certain basic technologies and the tight labor market restrictions.

  3. What happens when these agencies say fuck you and do it anyway?

    1. then, surely, the burden of proof will be on the citizen.

    2. *tentatively raises hand*

      N..n…noth…nothing?

      *more confidently*

      Yeah – nothing. I’m gonna stick with nothing!

    3. Possibly some cases will be thrown out of court for illegally obtained evidence.

      1. ahhahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

        Surely the amazing officers would have discovered said evidence from a more legitimate way, if there wasn’t already so much probable cause.

      2. And the state pays for your defense attorney’s time in that case?

      3. No, the cops will just lie on the stand about why they ran the plates on that particular car.

        They’ve been practicing with illegally obtained NSA evidence, so they probably already have a jargon-filled, brainless recitation already memorized.

  4. You can have my EZ Pass when you can pry it from my cold, dead dashboard….

  5. So this is where we have to go? Since the 4th Amendment is a dead-letter, we have to pass these kinds of laws one at a time to have any kind of privacy?

    1. do you really need to ask?

    2. Yep. The idea of enumerated powers and unenumerated rights has been totally flipped.

      1. I think it was a myth, since it’s never seemed to exist in my lifetime. It be dragons.

    3. I’m not sure that the 4th amendment has much to say here. Tracking license plates isn’t really a search or seizure. Your car is in public view. Anyone can write down of photograph all the license plates they see and create their own database. Of course the government has much more efficient ways to do it (and more reason to want to) than regular people.
      This is a case where a new law (or even better a constitutional amendment) really does seem to be needed. A general ban on government tracking the movements or locations of people who aren’t specifically suspected of any criminal activity would be nice.

      1. you don’t think it’s a 4th amendment issue to load the streets with CCTV?

        It’s the same thing.

        1. Not really, no. Stuff that is in plain view in public is not private.
          I think that government tracking and monitoring people without good reason is a very bad thing. But not all bad things that government can do are restricted by the constitution. Especially things that are really only possible with modern technology.
          I think some new protection is required for this sort of thing. Up until now, the government has mostly avoided making huge databases with all of the various kinds of information that they collect about people. But with modern IT and calls for more efficiency in government, there is real danger of all of that information being put into a format where any bureaucrat can look up anything about you. I don’t really see anything in the BOR to prevent that.

          1. i think but it’s very definition, mass data mining is unreasonable.

            1. Sure. But is it search or seizure? Seems to me that part has already been done. Usually voluntarily. Once the government has the data, it is theirs to use. Which is why I think we need new protections against things like data mining which weren’t even remote possibilities when the BOR was written.

          2. Part of this is a semantic issue. “Right to privacy” is not the same as “right to anonymity”. The first is about not having someone go through your stuff or listen in a conversation, the second is about being left alone in public unless you do something to draw attention to yourself. The first is clearly protected by the Fourth Amendment; I’m not sure if the second is so explicitly protected, although I could make a case for the First Amendment with respect to speech and peaceful assembly.

            1. I think a right to anonymity from the 1st or 4th is a stretch. Which is why I think new protections are required to address new problems that come with the information age.

              1. Fine by me; I’d draft it as wide as possible (in favor of the individual).

      2. I’m not sure that the 4th amendment has much to say here. Tracking license plates isn’t really a search or seizure. Your car is in public view.

        Yet the sum total of of your daily travels, your routes and all your errands and stops taken together, are not in public view and one could have a reasonable expectation that all of that information in aggregate is not public.

        1. That is true. Maybe some court will find some right to be free of that sort of thing. But I’m not holding my breath. I certainly think that government shouldn’t be doing that, which is why it is good that it is being specifically banned by law. It would also be nice to amend the constitution to more explicitly give rights to privacy and anonymity in public. But I won’t hold my breath on that either. There hasn’t really been any amendment dealing with protecting individual, non-political rights (i.e. not voting related) since the 14th anyway.

          1. But I’m not holding my breath.

            Wise choice.

            I certainly think that government shouldn’t be doing that, which is why it is good that it is being specifically banned by law. It would also be nice to amend the constitution to more explicitly give rights to privacy and anonymity in public

            It seems highly illogical that the 4th Amendment wasn’t automatically extended to electronic communications and files but it really seems as though another Amendment is required. So they don’t fuck up again the text would have to read something like “Hey dumbass in the black robe, yeah you! LOOK HERE! READ THE FOLLOWING TEXT VERY CLOSELY; The government shall not search jackshit without a warrant.”

  6. Oh, Montana… it’s cute when you press back against the police state.

    1. See what happens if the police state pushes hard enough

  7. Ban on Government License Plate Cameras Nears in Montana

    How about we just ban government license plates?

    1. Newsletter plz

    2. How about we just ban government

    3. It sounds preposterous, but in the era of license plate scanners, the requirement for everyone to have a license plate on their bumper is pretty much the equivalent of everyone being required to walk around with their social security number on their back.

      1. Or with a GPS enabled cell phone.

      2. pretty much the equivalent of everyone being required to walk around with their social security number on their back tattooed on their arm.

        too easy.

    4. That’s really the problem. We’ve been driving around with the means to be tracked attached to our cars for 100 years. They have finally found a way to make it happen.

    5. Somolian, deep dish, broken roads, abortion squirrels

      Is that what you want?

      1. I’d prefer aborted Somalians and squirrel roads.

      2. deep dish sounds delicious whatever that is.

    6. or a ban on government?

    7. Keep the plates but give everyone the same one.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tujqM2u-BVo

  8. The next big thing is going to be taxing peoples milage using gps trackers which certainly won’t be abused. This gets talked about in Ohio annually for the last few years. Cop receives text when your car is sitting at a bar more then 2 hours with your name, vehicle description, and license plate.

    1. it’s that and then 1 step to speeding tickets via gps tracking. you don’t even have to be caught- it takes directly from your account for every mph you are over averaged over a certain time frame.

      1. No, this won’t happen. Speeding tickets are a revenue source, which can only happen when most people speed.

        A system that catches all speeders then is counterproductive as it will cause everyone to stop speeding.

        In order for speeding tickets to keep generating revenue, you chance of being caught has to be so low that most people are willing to risk it.

    2. Reason’s Bob Poole is a big proponent of mileage tax. Fuck him.

      1. Isn’t that taken care of, really, via gas tax? Mileage range is a given with this.

        1. Not really. Those with high MPG cars use the roads more but pay less. THose with electric cars pay nothing.

          1. well, they pay vehicle sales tax, registration, electricity costs, etc. In theory.

            1. But none of that specifically funds roads. In some states, at least, the gas tax can only be spent on the highways.

          2. Well we definitely don’t want to encourage people to use higher mpg cars!

      2. Ooooo yuck, not me

        I’m careful where I put MINE.

      3. There are other ways to do a mileage tax than GPS tracking.

        Gas tax is a good way to do it, but electric cars are a problem.

        Tolls are another way, but with EZ-pass type systems that is just another opportunity to track people’s movements.

        If Poole is suggesting GPS tracking, that’s pretty dumb for a supposed libertarian organization. But you have to pay for roads somehow and short of privatizing most roads, some kind of usage fee seems the be the fairest and most libertarian friendly way to do it.

        1. I would submit to GPS tracking with a constitutional amendment stating that it could NEVER (even with a warrant) be used for ANY type of law enforcement action.

          1. Yeah right. One missing abducted child and the whole protections would be blown away quicker than the first pig’s straw house.

    3. sounds like an opportunity…GPS signal blockers?

  9. THOSE CRAZY REDNECK TEABAGGERS IN HELENA ARE AT IT AGAIN, CHLOE!1!!

  10. Those with high MPG cars use the roads more but pay less.

    My Porsche or Honda imposes substantially less “wear and tear” on the roads and bridges than the 3/4 ton pickup, and infinitely more enjoyable to drive.

    Also, “use the roads MORE”? No. Same miles, just in a smaller, lighter, more efficient car. As for electric cars, fuck ’em; stick a surtax on the registration. And on the batteries.

    1. You are right. It’s not just a usage thing, it’s a wear and tear thing. So maybe the right calculation is a milage x some vehicle type factor?

      But I part ways with you here:

      and infinitely more enjoyable to drive

      Nothing is more fun to drive than a pickup. šŸ˜‰

      1. So the two-seater sports car is entirely superfluous?

        1. There was a time, as a yute, when I thought the Porsche 928 S4 was the end all, be all, mode of transport.

          …the places I value “getting to” have changed significantly since then. šŸ™‚

      2. So maybe the right calculation is a milage x some vehicle type factor?

        Road wear is a combination of weight and distance.

        So is gas consumption.

        I think we already have a decent surrogate for road wear. Blowing up a decent system over a remote outlier (electric vehicles? seriously?) is not smart.

        1. I suspect electric vehicles will become more of an issue. But until something replaces batteries I think you are probably right and they will stay fairly insignificant. The most wear on the road will continue to be from big trucks and their diesel engines aren’t going anywhere too soon.
          And if hydrogen power or something takes off, you can put a road tax on that.

  11. “This bill ties the hands of law enforcement. In advance,” complained Larry Epstein of the Montana Association of Police Chiefs.

    “We *tried* to be pro-active with regard to those potential terrorists, but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”

    1. can we tie their feet together and ball gag them on the next go round? huh can we, can we please??

  12. Nothing is more fun to drive than a pickup.

    I have driven thousands and thousands of miles in pickup trucks; a big chunk of that was with some sort of tailer behind me, and I respectfully disagree, in the strongest terms. My full size four wheel drive truck is reserved for those days when the road to civilization is so drifted nothing else will make it, and for trash or lumber runs.

    Sometimes, you NEED a truck. The rest of the time, it sits.

    1. Unless one is talking about a highly-modified diesel monster pickup-and even then, a small lightweight car (preferably with a powerful engine, but regardless), is more fun than anything on four wheels

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  15. I think we already have a decent surrogate for road wear.

    Exactly. Of all the government taxes and fees we might want to “fine tune” the gas tax is ‘way, ‘way down on my list.

    Stop diverting the revenue to non-highway-related projects, and call it good.

  16. It is excellent to ban the use of license plate readers. They WILL be abused to track your movements and that is constitutionally unacceptable.

    James C. Walker, Life Member – National Motorists Association

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  18. what’s next, a chip embedded in your ass cheek to see how many steps you take so they can tax your sidewalk usage?

    1. Radioactive:

      Don’t give the buggers and ideas.

      1. OOPS, I meant to say “any ideas”. My typing has really gone to the devil.

  19. “I might be moving to Montana soon…”
    -FZ

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  20. “This bill ties the hands of law enforcement. In advance,” complained Larry Epstein of the Montana Association of Police Chiefs.

    Well, yeah. That’s the idea.

    As to this bill “tying the hands of law enforcement”, looking at the behavior of “law enforcement” in some areas, that would likely be one of the better ideas recently heard about.

  21. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
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  22. This piece of legislation will not help. The police-state will find another way to track vehicles. Here is a better idea. Get rid of license plates. They once served a useful purpose – to ensure that drivers paid their “car tax”. A windshield sticker can be used to do that now, similar to vehicle inspection stickers. The only information it should contain is a month and year. In fact, most states have already changed to a sticker, which is then put onto the license plate! Vehicle license plates are now used only to terrorize public citizens. And now we have to deal with license plate readers being purchased and used by law enforcement without any input from the citizens who – by the way – are paying for them. It is long past time to discontinue the use of vehicle license plates.

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