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Federal Court Affirms Use of ALPR (Automated License Plate Reader) Evidence in Criminal Prosecutions

As technology continues to evolve, so do the tools law enforcement agencies use in criminal investigations. One such tool is Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs), which capture license plate numbers and vehicle movements for various law enforcement purposes. However, the admissibility of ALPR evidence in criminal prosecutions raises important legal questions, as highlighted in a recent judicial opinion.

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled on a case in which ALPR evidence played a significant role in an attempted murder-for-hire trial. The evidence consisted of reports from online databases showing The defendant’s vehicle traveling at suspicious times and locations in relation to the shooting incident. The defendant raised objections to the admissibility of the ALPR evidence, arguing that its use constituted an unconstitutional warrantless search under the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, she contended that the government should have presented the evidence through an expert witness.

Despite the Defendant’s objections, the district court allowed the ALPR evidence to be introduced at trial. The court ruled that the Defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding her vehicle’s exterior or license plate, which the ALPR system visually captured. Furthermore, the court determined that the evidence did not require expert testimony, as presenting photographs or images of vehicles is akin to other forms of visual evidence commonly admitted at trial.

The Defendant’s case underscores the complex legal issues surrounding ALPR evidence in criminal prosecutions. One key argument raised was whether accessing ALPR data without a warrant constitutes an unconstitutional search under the Fourth Amendment. While the Supreme Court has addressed similar issues regarding other forms of digital surveillance, such as historical cell-site location information, specific guidance on ALPR data remains limited.

In the absence of clear precedent regarding ALPR data, courts have applied the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. This exception allows evidence obtained in reasonable reliance on binding precedent to be admissible, even if subsequent legal developments alter the legal landscape. In the Defendant’s case, the court reasoned that accessing ALPR data without a warrant was permissible based on existing Circuit precedent at the time.

Another issue raised in the Defendant’s case was whether the testimony of the law enforcement officer regarding ALPR data required expert qualification under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The court determined that the officer’s testimony did not necessitate specialized knowledge beyond that of a layperson. The officer’s explanation of ALPR systems and the retrieval of data from online databases did not constitute expert testimony but rather relied on his own experiences in law enforcement.

The admissibility of ALPR evidence in criminal prosecutions poses intricate legal challenges, particularly regarding Fourth Amendment rights and evidentiary standards. If you have found yourself being questioned or charged with a Florida crime, it is important to realize that police and prosecutors may take advantage of emerging technologies to produce evidence against you. The law is not always settled on the use of new technologies in criminal prosecutions. The qualified Tampa criminal defense attorneys at the Mayberry Law Firm keep up to date on how technology interplays with criminal prosecutions, and our lawyers are prepared to challenge any sort of evidence that prosecutors seek to introduce. If you’ve been arrested, reach out today and we will start working on your defense. For a comprehensive discussion about your case, feel free to reach out to our office at 813-444-7435 or directly contact me at

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