License plate reader bill converted to a study, awaits fate on House floor

February 23, 2021

Legislation that initially sought to prohibit law-enforcement and regulatory agencies from using license plate readers to collect and maintain personal information on individuals without a warrant has been converted to a study bill and currently awaits a final vote in the House of Delegates.

SB 1198 (Petersen) was substantially amended by the House Public Safety Committee, where a substitute was introduced that resulted in the legislation simply creating a work group to further study the issue.  The substitute bill requires that the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security establish a stakeholder work group to review the use of license plate readers as used by law-enforcement agencies within the Commonwealth. In conducting such review, the stakeholder work group shall (i) identify and analyze the data and information that is gathered from such license plate readers; (ii) identify and analyze how such data and information are used and retained by law-enforcement agencies within the Commonwealth; and (iii) develop recommendations relating to the length of time such data and information should be retained by law-enforcement agencies and any other recommendations about proper usage or retention of such data and information.

The legislation stipulates that members of the stakeholder group shall be appointed by the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security in consultation with the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, the President of the Senate, and the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Representatives shall include the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, the Virginia State Crime Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union or other civil liberties union, a social justice organization, the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a data privacy expert, and such other stakeholders as the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security deems appropriate.

In its original form, SB 1198 reported out of the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee by a vote of 8-4-3 before passing the full Senate 28-11.  The substitute study bill, as described above, reported out of the House Public Safety Committee by a vote of 18-4.  Currently, SB 1198 awaits a final vote on the House floor.  Should it pass the House, it will be rereferred to the Senate for consideration.

VACo will continue to monitor this legislation and report updates as they come.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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