84(R) - 2015
Emerging Issues In Texas Law Enforcement, Select
Emerging Issues In Texas Law Enforcement, Select
Relating to the use of automatic license plate reader systems; creating a criminal offense.
A fiscal note dated April 30, 2015 anticipates no significant fiscal implication to the State.
There could be costs associated with the bill for local entities that use automatic license plate reader systems; however the costs would depend on a number of factors including, the resources of the local entity, how often and for what purpose the license plate reader system is used.
A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of not more than $4,000,confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year, or both. Costs associated with enforcement, prosecution,and confinement could likely be absorbed with existing resources. Revenue from fines imposed and collected is not anticipated to have a significant fiscal impact.
Montgomery County reported costs associated with the bill include a new staff person and additional resources.
House Bill 3929 would amend Chapter 411 of the Government Code relating to the Department of Public Safety of the State of Texas to create the automatic license plate reader system.
The bill would authorize law enforcement agencies to use images and all related captured plate data produced by an automatic license plate reader system for the following purposes:
- detecting or investigating a criminal offense,
- detecting or investigating a criminal violation of a traffic law or vehicle compliance,
- investigating a report of a missing person,
- investigating threats related to terrorism,
- in conjunction with an administrative hearing by a law enforcement agency under the law enforcement agency’s administrative rules,
- crime analysis,
- any other legitimate law enforcement purpose.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) and law enforcement agencies that use an automatic license plate reader system would be required to establish a database to retain captured plate data.
DPS and law enforcement agencies would have to adopt rules or policies regarding the use of the system: designating law enforcement personnel allowed to search captured plate data, establishing an audit process regarding the purposes for which the data is used, establishing procedures and safeguards regarding the appropriate screening and training for personnel accessing the database.
House Bill 3929 would require that each law enforcement agency submit an annual report to DPS on the use of the licence plate reader system the preceding year, including information on the number of reader system units, the number of readers and a list of audits completed by the agency.
The bill would also require that DPS submit an annual report to the Legislature including information on the number of readings retained in the database, the total number of requests and the number of those that resulted in a release of information, as well as the total number of out-of-state and federal requests, and the number of those that resulted in a release of information, any data breach or unauthorized use of the database, a list of audits, a summary of the reports from law enforcement agencies.
The data would not be subject to disclosure under Chapter 552 relating to public information.
Use of data from the database by law enforcement personnel for anything other than a valid law enforcement purpose would constitute a Class A misdemeanor offense.
Vote Recommendation Notes
House Bill 3929 would put into statute the current practice by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and any law enforcement agency that uses an automatic license plate reader
system to use and retain the captured plate data in a database.
According to the statement of purpose for House Bill 3929,
the bill seeks to place limits on the use of collected data from an automatic
license plate reader.
The bill does list the purposes for which a law enforcement
agency may use images and data; it creates the requirement for law enforcement
agencies to report annually about the number of readers, and readings, to DPS,
and for DPS to report to the Legislature about the number of requests for
captured data and the number of releases of data, as well as any breach of data that may have occurred; and it creates a Class A
misdemeanor offense for law enforcement personnel that uses data from the database
for anything other than valid law enforcement purposes.
On the other hand, rules and policies regarding the use of
the system would be left to each law enforcement agency to establish, as is currently the case. As is,
CSHB 3929 would establish no limit in time for the retention of data captured
by license plate reader cameras, and all data captured could be retained.
Automatic license plate reader systems create enormous
privacy rights issues as readers can capture, analyze and record thousands of license
plates at once, and records can contain information on the exact location, the date
and time and a photograph of the cars of thousands of people that have committed absolutely no crime. Information related to
the daily car trips of thousands of law-abiding Texans can be stored for
possible future use, making a mockery of the presumption of innocence.
Such a database also creates the temptation for unscrupulous
individuals to use this very private kind of information for their personal
goals. Although the bill creates an offense against such an unethical behavior,
it cannot guaranty the security of the data. In fact, the report from DPS to
the Legislature would have to include information on any data breach or
unauthorized use of data.
The role of government is not to record and archive the
coming and going of their citizens. Such databases should be forbidden, instead of their use being regulated. Nevertheless, because House Bill 3929 does try to limit their use, we will remain neutral on this bill.