Kentucky Court Upholds License Plate Scan Traffic Stops

The use of license plate cameras linked to insurance records is known to produce a number of false positives. Nonetheless, the Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday declared such systems were good enough to for police to use as justification to stop a motorist.

Roy Lee Lynem told a court that the real reason that Lexington Police Officer Todd Hart and Recruit Officer Head stopped him was that they did not like the way he looked. Lynem is a large black man with facial tattoos and blond-dyed dreadlocks. The officers spotted him as he was leaving the Speedway gas station after buying gas and a drink.

Officer Hart used his squad car’s automated license plate reader (ALPR or ANPR) to check Lynem’s car, and the system came back with the message “verify proof of insurance.” The officer admitted he sees false positives — up to one in ten — when using the “Automated Vehicle Information System” (AVIS) insurance database check, but the message was all he needed to conduct a traffic stop.

After pulling over, Lynem got out and ran. He did not get far, but now he faced far more serious charges. A search of the car came up clean, but the officers found a bit of crack cocaine on the ground that they said must be his. Lynem was arrested for drug possession and fleeing. Michael McLaughlin, a witness who was was being booked at the police station after Lynem was brought in, testified that he heard Officers Hart and Head laughing about the incident, saying they did not like how Lynem looked and that they knew he would run.