The Epoch Times

Liberty Justice Center Sues Illinois State Police Over License Plate Readers

May 30, 2024

(The Epoch Times)—The Liberty Justice Center on Thursday filed a lawsuit challenging Illinois’ roadway cameras, which capture images of license plates on vehicles driving on state highways.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two Cook County residents, argues that the Illinois State Police Department’s use of highway cameras—known as Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR)—to track citizens without warrant or suspicion of crimes is an overstep of authority and a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

“Tracking and recording the movements of every citizen and holding on to that mass surveillance data of millions of people—just in case a police officer one day decides to target one of them—is not just an invasion of privacy, but also a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be protected against unreasonable searches,” Reilly Stephens, counsel at the Liberty Justice Center, said in a press release.

“Dragnet surveillance, without warrant, cause, or even suspicion, violates the constitutional rights of innocent people,” Mr. Stephens continued. “We are proud to challenge this program and urge the Court to end this unconstitutional surveillance scheme.”

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the people’s right to be secure from unreasonable government searches and seizures of property. According to Cornell Law School, it protects citizens from “arbitrary arrests and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance.”

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, names Brendan Kelly, director of Illinois State Police, Gov. Jay Pritzker, and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul as defendants.

Citizen Plaintiffs

Stephanie Scholl and Frank Bednarz are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs, who have valid Illinois driver’s licenses, say they regularly drive the expressways in Cook County and surrounding areas using their personal vehicles.

“It is an unreasonable search when the government tracks the movements of every citizen who drives a car just in case it might someday have reasonable suspicion as to one of the millions of people being tracked,” reads the 11-page lawsuit.

In 2019, Illinois lawmakers enacted legislation to fund the installation of hundreds of ALPRs across Chicago’s highways.

“The cameras capture an image of every vehicle that drives past and compares each vehicle’s license plate and other identifying features to a national database used by law enforcement agencies across the country,” the Liberty Justice Center said in the release. “The images—as well as their date, time, and GPS coordinates—are collected and stored for future use.”

Attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center allege that the data captured through the ALPR system is compared “instantly and automatically for all vehicles.” They claim that while the data can be used to track individuals suspected of criminal activity, it can also be accessed by any authorized user of the national database, and someone’s data can be accessed whether they are a suspect of a crime or not.

“This system has brought Big Brother to Illinois,” said Ms. Scholl, who lives in Chicago, in a statement. “Automatically tracking and indefinitely storing information on everyone who drives into the state completely crosses the line. That isn’t a reasonable security measure—it’s a dystopia playing out in real-time, in our backyards.”

In 2022, the program was expanded beyond Cook County, and the systems are currently being installed statewide.

“If law enforcement agencies can conduct constant, warrantless mass surveillance and store that information to access at any time, then ordinary people effectively have no protection against abuses of police power,” said Mr. Bednarz, a Chicago-based attorney. “The Fourth Amendment is meant to protect us from unreasonable search and seizure, but how can that right be upheld when the state is perpetually searching every citizen?”