Liberty Justice Center Lawsuit Challenges Illinois Highway Cameras’ Mass Surveillance Scheme

May 30, 2024

On May 30, the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the Illinois State Police and Illinois law enforcement officials to challenge the state’s dragnet surveillance of every citizen who drives a car or truck in the state—without a warrant or even the barest suspicion of criminal activity.

In 2019, the state of Illinois enacted legislation funding the installation of hundreds of highway cameras known as Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) across Chicago’s expressways. ALPRs 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 images—as well as their date, time, and GPS coordinates—are collected and stored for future use.

ALPRs capture and compare this data instantly and automatically for all vehicles. The police can use this data to track individuals suspected of criminal activity, but any authorized user of the national database can also access the comprehensive travel records for anyone whose license plate has been captured—even if a person is not suspected of criminal activity.

In 2022, the program was expanded beyond Cook County. These tracking systems are now being installed across the state.

The Liberty Justice Center is suing the Illinois State Police on behalf of multiple Cook County residents who argue that this surveillance oversteps police authority. The lawsuit argues that this warrantless and causeless surveillance constitutes an unreasonable search in 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,” said Reilly Stephens, Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center.

“This system has brought Big Brother to Illinois,” said plaintiff Stephanie Scholl, a Chicago resident. “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.”

“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 plaintiff Frank 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?”

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

Scholl v. Illinois State Police was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on May 30.

The Liberty Justice Center’s legal filings in Scholl v. Illinois State Police are available here.


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