Courts Issue Rulings in Two Cases Challenging Law Enforcement Searches of License Plate Databases

This week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in United States v. Yang, a case challenging the search of an automated license plate reader database under the Fourth Amendment. Although the court, citing EFF’s amicus brief, recognized ALPRs capture massive amounts of data on Americans across the country, it decided not to reach the search issue. Instead it held that because Yang was driving a rental car after his rental agreement ended when the search occurred, he didn’t have the right to challenge the search.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision follows an April opinion from Massachusetts’s highest court in another ALPR case, Commonwealth v. McCarthy. In McCarthy, the court held that, although ALPRs raise clear privacy issues under the Fourth Amendment and Massachusetts’s Article 14, McCarthy hadn’t introduced sufficient facts to show that the search at issue in his case rose to the level of a constitutional violation.