Police Collecting Databases of Vehicle Information, Neal v. Fairfax County Police Department.
The Fairfax County Police Department owns a number of Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs), devices which are mounted on police vehicles or stationary objects and read every license plate that comes into its field of vision – potentially thousands of records per minute. The Department stores the records for up to a year, allowing it to determine particular vehicle locations and specific dates and times. We filed suit on behalf of Harrison Neal, a Fairfax County resident whose license plate information has been recorded by the Department at least twice, arguing that the Department’s use of ALPRs violates Virginia’s Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act.
FCPD filed a Memorandum in Support of Demurrer on July 31, 2015 asking the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that license plate records are not “personal data” under the statute. On August 28, 2015, the judge denied the Demurrer, allowing the lawsuit to move forward. FCPD filed their Answer to the Complaint on September 18, 2015.
FCPD filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on August 4, 2016 on the basis that the Complaint failed to establish a violation of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act. Neal filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on August 4, 2016 on the basis that the collection, storage and use of automated license plate reader information failed to meet the requirement of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act. Both parties subsequently filed Oppositions to the other party's Motion for Summary Judgment on August 25, 2016. On Sept. 8, 2016, Judge Smith heard arguments on summary judgment motions filed by Neal and FCPD. The case is scheduled for trial on Nov. 28-30, 2016. in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
On Nov. 18, 2016, the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the defendant. We filed the Notice of Appeal on behalf of Harrison Neal with the Fairfax County Circuit Court on Dec. 20, 2016. Our Petition for Appeal was filed with the Virginia Supreme Court on Feb. 22, 2017. The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an Amicus brief in Support of the Petitioner's Brief on Feb. 22, 2017. FCPD filed their Brief in Opposition of Neal's Petition for Appeal on March 17, 2017. On June 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of Virginia granted our Petition for Appeal. The ACLU of Virginia filed the Opening Brief on behalf of Harrison Neal on August 1, 2017.
On April 1, 2019, a Fairfax County judge granted the ACLU of Virginia’s petition for an injunction prohibiting the FCPD from collecting and storing ALPR data outside of an investigation or intelligence gathering related to a criminal investigation.