Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Neal v. Fairfax County Police Department

Supreme Court of Virginia

April 26, 2018

HARRISON NEAL
v.
FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL.

          FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY Robert J. Smith, Judge

         PRESENT: All the Justices

          OPINION

          CLEO E. POWELL, JUSTICE

         In this appeal, we consider whether the Circuit Court of Fairfax County erred when it determined, on summary judgment, that the retention of information gathered and stored by a police department using automated license plate readers ("ALPR") did not constitute a violation of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act ("Data Act"), Code §§ 2.2-3800 to -3809.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 9, 2014, Harrison Neal ("Neal") submitted a Virginia Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request to the Fairfax County Police Department ("Police Department") seeking its ALPR records regarding his vehicle "with VA tag ADDCAR." The Police Department responded that "[w]ithin the last 364 days [Neal's] tag was read twice by [the Police Department's] ALPR system" and sent Neal two sheets of paper, each of which contained two pictures of his vehicle with the ADDCAR license plate affixed, and a chart that indicated the time, date, and GPS location from which at least one of the photographs was taken.

         On May 5, 2015, Neal filed a complaint against the Police Department and Chief of Police Colonel Edwin C. Roessler, Jr. (hereafter collectively "FCPD") seeking "an injunction and/or writ of mandamus" pursuant to the Data Act. Neal sought to prohibit the Police Department from continuing to collect and store license plate data without suspicion of any criminal activity, which is sometimes referred to as the "passive use" of ALPRs.[1]

         The Data Act governs "recordkeeping agencies" and "political subdivisions" of the Commonwealth and was enacted to better "ensure safeguards for personal privacy" by government agencies. Code § 2.2-3800. Specifically, Neal alleged that the Police Department's "passive use" of ALPRs violates several provisions of the Data Act, including the requirement in Code § 2.2-3800(C)(2) that information not be collected "unless the need for it has been clearly established in advance" of collecting that information.

         Subsequently, FCPD filed an answer and grounds of defense. FCPD admitted that the Police Department uses ALPRs in the "active" and "passive" manners described in Neal's complaint, but denied that either use violated the Data Act. It further denied that Neal had a right to relief under the Data Act because "[a] license plate number is not personal information."

         On August 4, 2016, FCPD filed a motion for summary judgment. In support, FCPD identified the following as facts not genuinely in dispute:

1. The Police Department's ALPRs use "cameras, which can be stationary or mounted on a police vehicle, and which capture images of passing vehicles' license plates;"
2. when the ALPR captures the image, an application converts the license plate image into an alpha-numeric combination, not state specific, that is compared in real time against a "hot list" of license plate numbers;
3. the Police Department operates an electronic ALPR database that stores the captured images; the alpha-numeric conversion of the license plate number; and the time, date, and location from which the image was captured (ALPR information) for 364 days;
4. the ALPR database is an investigative tool to detect criminal activity or respond to other calls for service, including AMBER alerts and missing or endangered person alerts;
5. the Police Department may access the ALPR database to assist in its criminal investigations as well as criminal investigations of other localities;
6. the ALPR database may only be searched by license plate number and does not list the "make, model, year, or registration information" of a vehicle;
7. the ALPR equipment does not "photograph or otherwise identify the owner or driver of the vehicle" or capture his or her identifying information;
8. the ALPR information concerning the ADDCAR license plate "did not contain Neal's name, address, date of birth, or any information related to the individual to whom the ADDCAR ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.