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KY: Local police department’s new tool reads license plates automatically

[ – 7/7/18]

PADUCAH, KY – Another set of eyes are looking out for you, but these ones are electronic.

We told you on Tuesday about an under-staffing problem at the Paducah Police Department. They need to hire about six more officers.

But in the meantime, the department is getting some help from this pretty cool tool.

John Smith is a patrol officer. He’s got a new partner that sits on the top of his car. “It doesn’t change my duties a lot. The license plate reader kind of does its own work,” Smith said. “It reads the license plates a lot faster than I can.”

They’ve been working together for two months. “Every car that I pass, it will reference the license plate against a national database and tell me if the car is stolen,” Smith said. “It can tell me if the owner of that car has a warrant or is on the sex offender registry.”

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  1. Nicholas Maietta

    A few months ago I was pulled over because there was an NCIC “hit” on my vehicle. As it turns out, ALL sex offenders have this “hit” on their vehicles. A NCIC “hit” simply means there is an active record attached for law enforcement review. It took the CHP officer calling in to get things cleared up. I then noticed a similar issue when I went to take care of normal DMV business registering my vehicle. I was asked to take a seat. Shortly after an officer arrived and went to talk to me but then DMV responded said, this was an NCIC hit and they just confirmed with CHP that it’s clear and i’m good to go.

    I have paperwork that actually shows this “hit” from the DMV’s perspective. The last time I went in I said you should probably get CHP on the phone because your going to get a hit on my vehicle. The lady and another guy behind the counter looked at me strangely and the other guy said “He’s a 290 and we’re now seeing these NCIC hits on vehicle registrations.”.

    I have been pulled over twice since then for the same reason.

    • AJ

      It’d be interesting to engage the LEO regarding the reason for being pulled over. What was the reasonable suspicion? Is a computer hit a specific, articulable fact? I wonder…and kind of doubt it, since the “suspicion” was based purely on the registration information of the vehicle, and not on any action or behavior by the operator. Granted, a GTA would elicit the same computer hit and LEO response, but in that case the LEO would also be told of the GTA status, thus creating a proper reasonable suspicion.

      • Nicholas Maietta

        The problem arose with the NCIC “hit” on the automatic plate scanning. I was told there is no way to differentiate the reason and prior to this change 100% of the NCIC hits are for something more sinister like wanted persons, stolen vehicles, etc. If registration is civil, then why is it showing up as a federal active crime information database for vehicles?

        • JonC

          The fact that CHP has to call in to clear the NCIC hit and pulled you over multiple times needlessly is a large waste of time and resources over nothing.
          Do you live near a major city?

    • Will Allen

      The criminal regimes that are pulling people over for no reason need to be sued. For anything possible, as often as possible. We all need to work to keep money and other resources away from them.

      Never support the criminal regimes that have $EX Offender Registries. Never support their law enforcement criminals.

    • JonC

      So you’ve being randomly pulled by CHP three times in the past couple months for being an SO im California?
      Did you complain to the officers or ask how to avoid this?

      I also live in California and haven’t experienced this yet but it is very disconcerting.

      • Facts should matter

        Being on the registry hinders and hampers travel in automobiles, just like IML does in airplanes.

        Basically, this “reader” is doing the equivalent of canvassing, but in the electronic realm

        This is harassment and interference! At this point we’re far removed and beyond the scope of nintended consequences and collateral damage. They’ll be sending drones out to our homes to spy on us next.

        Zero privacy = zero life

      • Nicholas Maietta

        I filed a complete with the California Department of Justice Megan’s Law division and am preparing a FOIA request for more details on this situation.

        • JonC

          I live very near SF and haven’t been pulled over, I’m wondering if population density has a hand in that.

    • American Detained in America

      If you have been pulled over three times in the last few months without cause other than the NCIC hit just because you’re on the registry, I’d think that may start to qualify as harassment. You’re not on probation or parole, they aren’t supposed to be able to just pull you over just to pull you over.

  2. Facts should matter

    “Smith said. “It can tell me if the owner of that car has a warrant or is on the sex offender registry.”

    What GD difference does it make if this “cool” new tool identifies the “owner” of a vehicle on the registry?!

    How is this going to aide and assist LEOS? Someone enlighten me. Especially how ALL vehicles (not just the SOs) at the address must be registered. Oh, that’s right.. their excuse is any vehicle that we have “access to” must be registered at the local cop bar because it can be used in the future commission of a crime. RIGHT..

  3. Cassandra

    The day after Easter this year my husband was pulled over and the officer asked my husband if he knew why he pulled him over. Dumbfounded my husband said he had no idea why. Officer told my husband his driver’s licensewas expired; husband told him he was in fact wrong and showed him he renewed it 5 weeks ago. However my husband and son have the same name ( jr/sr.), my son is currently in prision and is on the sex offender registry but my son’s license has expired while in prision. Other than using the police scanner there was NO probable cause to pull my husband over. It is also apparent the officer was pulling him over because he thought the person was a registered sex offender. Other people in my community have been pulled over because they have criminal records without probable
    My son gets out of prision in 13 days, I have told him not to get a car because they are profiling through the use of license plate scanners.

  4. TS

    Pretty soon, Officer Smith, you will be outsourced to automation. Be careful what you wish for…

  5. steve

    So what happens when your family is getting pulled over? My daughter who is 17 said a cop car was following her and it scared her. I have 4 cars all registered to me. Yeah I could change it but if I’m caught driving it…well we all know that outcome.

    • Will Allen

      I have the same thing. It is good to have many cars Registered to you because it keeps these criminal law enforcement people busy. You should also switch up the one you drive very often so they have to pretend that they are “watching” all of them. Encourage your children to drive them to parks and leave them there while they go off with their friends somewhere. It is great to waste as much time, money, and other resources of these criminal regimes as much as possible.

      F all people who support Registries.

  6. bob

    SIMPLE way around this !!!
    Go get a FBN (Fictitious Business name) costs like $20ish buxs is good for I think it was 5 years and a ad ran in a paper or online… simple…

    Register the CAR and TITLE to that FBN !

    Simple, when the plate is ran comes up as a BUSINESS and not a personal name !
    I did it MYSELF and doesnt cost me a penny extra on my car insurance either !
    Im in CA !

    When the plate is ran by LEO retard, just comes back as a business name, no name attached to it AT ALL !

    • Will Allen

      The problem is not the name on a car. The problem is that in most (all??) states, a person that is listed on a Registry must give the criminal regime the license plate # of any vehicles which they drive. Doesn’t matter who/what owns the vehicle.

      F all people who support the Registries. They are not Americans.

    • Nicholas Maietta

      There will still be an NCIC hit on the vehicle no matter who it belongs to.

      • bob

        Cant be a NCIC hit on it if I havent reported that car, as I dont OWN it, NOT REG’d to me and not my main driving car. Therefore it doesnt fall under for having to register it.

  7. David

    LEOs where I live use ALPRs (automated license plate readers). So I requested a copy of any ALPR records that were produced for my vehicle. I received a print out about 6 pages long showing me every instance that an ALPR took a photo of my car and where it was at the time the photo was snapped. I had actually hoped to see something interesting, but no such luck. Every single one of the photos the ALPR snapped of my car were all of it either in front of my house or of my car actually parked off the street, in my driveway.

  8. Lake County

    We covered this issue several months ago. Most big cities use these to track everyone. Police love this data. Smaller towns with only one way in and out are now starting to use it to check on every visitor coming in. I think we should all expect that we are being watched anywhere we drive. This is just part of what the future holds for everyone.

    • Tired of this

      As soon as you’re legally able to, I recommend forming a LLC to register your vehicle under, which you should purchase at that time in the name of the LLC so as to have no record of the vehicle under your name. It might even be advisable to form one now, in case it becomes harder to do this later on. A New Mexico LLC is currently the most ideal for privacy. LLCs can also be used for real property to keep your name out of real estate databases. I recommend the book How To Be Invisible by J. J. Luna. When I no longer have to register (and disclose vehicles I own), securing my privacy is my life mission, and it’s all the more important in this increasingly authoritarian, surveillance state.

      • TS

        FWIW, I found NM, NV, WY and DE are good states to do the LLC incorporation in after I discussed privacy & discrimination generics with business attorneys in each state through a national legal referral office. No such info relating to the RC designation or legal situation was discussed.

        Each call “legally zoomed” me to the info I needed to do such an action. (That is a foot stomp w/o saying specifically the entity to avoid endorsement here).

      • AJ

        @Tired of this:
        And just how, exactly, does registering it through a LLC absolve RCs of the laws that require disclosing any vehicle owned or operated?

        The LLC may own it on paper, but if it’s shown said LLC is merely a shell to avoid registration…I say good luck. And no matter how a vehicle is owned, if the law requires registration of operated vehicles, you’re risking a FTR. (In some places, RCs who drive fleet vehicles have all sorts of problems.)

        • Tired of this

          I guess I should clarify my statement to mean when one isn’t required to register anymore (you’ll notice I said “as soon as you’re legally able to”). I’m not suggesting anything that would risk a FTR charge.

    • Tim Moore

      I am afraid you are right.

  9. TS

    Like to remind everybody that if you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer or agency, you can surreptitiously, or secretively, record the interaction using some sort of recording device such as a GoPro or your cell phone camera that they are not aware of being used during the interaction. Do not make it obvious. If you can get the name, badge number, and maybe division office of the individual(s) who is interacting with you during one of these stops, that’s all you need. You do not necessarily need a face, so it does not necessarily have to be a video but could just be an audio recording. If there’s someone in the vehicle with you, who is comfortable recording at the same time you are, all the more power to you. Remember, this is your right to do this and has been settled in courts even if law enforcement agencies in officers do not approve of such action. you can most likely guarantee that they are recording this interaction. Beware that there may be a second individual who is providing cover on the opposing side on the back quarter panel. Note the interaction with as much detail as possible. Just be kind and courteous with them, not confrontational.

    At the same time, you should also get a business card from them stating who they are and other contact information in addition to possibly who their Watch Commander or desk sergeant is. If they do not have a business card, try and write down as much information as you can and repeat it verbally as you’re writing it so you have it on your recording as well.

    Stopping you based on a label in a database is ridiculous just because you have registered the license plate with a registering office. If you can get them to admit that’s the reason why they stopped you instead of other probable cause such as a expired license plate, dead tail light, bad headlight, or anything else, it would be wonderful because that information could be used legally I would imagine under profiling.

    There is a YouTube video that has been linked here previously from a professor and a former law enforcement officer educating people as to why they should not talk with law enforcement when pulled over.

    • AJ

      All good advice, @TS. Whatever recording method used, ensure it automatically uploads to the cloud, or it may magically disappear if the Thin Blue Liars notice the recording. Having voice-activation of it on your cell phone would helpful, otherwise you’ll be observed fumbling about in the vehicle–which the TBL will almost assuredly claim was your hiding evidence, or a gun, or whatever. If your phone is positioned to capture the driver’s window, all set.

      • E

        Why do the filming surreptitiously? I thought telling them I’m filming the interaction for my safety is ok. They may not like it but it’s not probably cause to search my car, right? Same as being on the registry is not probable cause to pull me over?

        Would love a primer on probably cause vs. reasonable suspicion. Also, at one of the conferences like ACSOL, I’d love a breakout that teaches what to do when meeting LEOs in different scenarios:
        … on foot
        … in a car, they pull you over, you are NOT aware of doing anything wrong like speeding
        … in a car, you know you were speeding
        … in a car with my own kids (but my wife is not with); what will they ask me/do/suspect?
        … in my car out of state: what do I say to an out of state cop? Nothing, or tell him I’m aware of the statutes in his state and am in compliance (do I have to prove my innocence? Does he have probably cause or reasonable suspicion for an out of state RC?)

        I’m sure I could come up with other scenarios 🙂

        • TS


          If their only reason to pull you over is because you’re an RC and they get an NCIC hit from your license plate, then to you want them to freely admit it and you record it unbeknownst to them. If they know you’re recording, don’t expect them to admit to it then, but something else will be the reason for the stop.

          They may not like you recording it and make it difficult to do so.

        • AJ

          Why do the filming surreptitiously?
          Because if they know they’re being recorded, they’ll be on their best behavior. You want their real abusive and intimidating manner on tape, not the made-for-TV version.
          tell him I’m aware of the statutes in his state and am in compliance[?}
          Absolutely not! For one, never admit anything to a LEO, or even talk to one. Some states have positive ID laws, so you may not be able to remain completely mum…though handing your ID to the LEO does suffice. Anwyay, you can hand your license, registration, etc., without speaking. They don’t need to know how to pronounce your name, they don’t have a right to know where you’ve been, where you’re going, etc. If they ask questions, simply tell them, “I don’t answer questions.” (If feeling extra snarky, add, “I do not consent to searches.”)

          For RCs, the biggest reason not to admit you know the statutes of that state is that you’re now on the hook! In Lambert v. CA (, SCOTUS ruled that ignorance of a registration scheme *can be* an excuse. It may be a tough, or even impossible, fight, but admit nothing. Ignorance is your friend regarding registration. So your saying you know not only that you must register, but all the ins and outs, can only play poorly for you.

  10. WTF?

    If you see LEO coming up, just pull over or turn off street. I did this last week. Santa Clara PD. Behind me, so I u-turned into a car wash. He got stuck at light, but then pulled in. He had to walk up since another car was behind my car, which was in a stall. I asked what I had done to be questioned. Everyone could hear his answer. When he asked if I was current on my registration, I asked which one. He said my RSO status. I had him repeat it, and made sure others heard him. One guy actually told him he was harrassing me ( turns out he was a felon on parole). I told him I was current and he left. We talked about it among us and others actually showed empathy for me!
    Is this what America has come to. That law enforcement is allowed to harrass and hinder the movement of citizens without cause? Or worse, create reasons to invade our lives.
    Now not only do we have to be careful of criminals and “good intentioned” citizens harming us, we need to look over our shoulders at for the very people we pay to protect us.

  11. TS


    If their only reason to pull you over is because you’re an RC and they get an NCIC hit from your license plate, then to you want them to freely admit it and you record it unbeknownst to them. If they know you’re recording, don’t expect them to admit to it then, but something else will be the reason for the stop.

    They may not like you recording it and make it difficult to do so.

    • Jacob

      What if you are in a city for work and are in a rental car from a rental car agency from the airport? I am not the registered owner. What then? Do they see that it says Alamo, or Hertz and keep going?

      • TS


        If you have a rental car and it’s plate is read, it’ll show the rental car agency, not you.

  12. Chris F

    Doesn’t this go directly against the SCOTUS decision in Carpenter where the government cannot track you without a warrant?

    This decision was supposed to secure a right to privacy “in the whole of their physical movements.”

    • Will Allen

      Geez, you would think so. Simply put, un-American scumbags that support this BS need to learn to mind their own f’ing business and stop being harassing terrorists. Truly, they are nothing but war criminals harassing other people.

      It surely must be illegal to track the “good” people who are not listed on the Nanny Big Government (NBG) hit lists. But I’m sure the harassing scumbags think it is acceptable and “legal” to track “$EX offenders”. But actually, they have zero business or made-up “right” to track a person who is listed. They have no business tracking who they associate with, when they visit their children, who their doctors are, their attorneys, etc., etc., etc.

      F the harassers that support the NBG hit lists. They need to move to China, Russia, or some other third world, harassing, P.O.S. country where their kind fit in.

    • TS

      @Chris F

      Interesting thought. It would depend if a pattern is established, I’d think, using the technology. If you can request your records of the technology being used on you to establish a pattern, you may have harassment at a minimum if this is the only reason for a stop and surveillance at most with no probable cause & warrant you’re aware of.

      As you can read above, someone has been pulled over merely for this hit multiple times and someone received their license plate reader records upon request. So, it may get interesting quickly WRT this new technology.

      • Chris F

        Exactly, but there is something that makes this issue even more unconstitutional than the Carpenter decision.

        In Carpenter, the person is essentially consenting to a 3rd party business to track his movements by owning a cell phone. It used to be the courts would allow that evidence without a warrant, but now it’s not being allowed because there are no alternatives in modern society other than a cell phone tracked by the 3rd party. With the issue above, registered citizens aren’t consenting to a 3rd party at all. The license readers whether the tech is 3rd party or government owned never had our consent in any form.

        This is blatant abuse of government power.

        • CR

          Automated license plate readers have been in widespread use for at least a decade, but have existed and have been used in high-population density areas for much longer. Over the past decade they have become so widely deployed that it now seems unlikely that anyone could avoid having their driving patterns comprehensively tracked, unless they happen to live and drive in a remote rural area and never venture onto highways or into towns.

          The use of ALPRs is an invasion of privacy, for sure, since Police, at least in high-population metropolitan areas, are now able to track where and when you travel with a high degree of accuracy almost continually.

          The Virginia Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the data captured by Police ALPR is personal information. I don’t believe any other high court has yet ruled that way, but I sure hope that more do.

    • WTF?

      I think this would go under the heading of ” identifying” rather than “tracking”. They will always fall back on the ‘ole reliable public safety arguement.
      Technology has put us in a position of zero privacy. We are officially in the era of big brother. You can watch, listen, intrude on, and ruin anyone’s life with a simple tap of a button. Law enforcement by definition craves power. They will always have public backing to use whatever they feel is necessary to serve and protect. It is too late to stop this. America is a police state and it will only get worse.

      • TS


        They’ll have the backing until the technology is used against those doing the backing, someone related to them, or its use it well beyond the original intent – the public safety argument. Then, the minds may change about the support, e.g. Jacob Wetterling’s mother’s thought reversal on the registry concept since it has gone beyond what was originally intended.

        • Chris F

          Hmmm…if it’s stored data that doesn’t require a warrant for them to use to track someone or patterns, then it’s also available under a freedom of information request.

          So if someone has time, they should request the data and start tracking where our senators and congressman are going while representing us. That would be a shame if it exposed some bad habits of our leadership.

        • WTF?

          And since she has voiced opposition, has the registry been reversed?
          Once a monster is created, little can be done to bring it down.

  13. AJ

    The CA SC has ruled that ALPR data are *not* investigative records (, and thus the Thin Blue Liars cannot shield it from the public. This would also seem to play against any TBL who pulls you over based on a NCIC hit. If not investigative, how could there be reasonable suspicion? Sure sounds like 4th Amendments issues abound, and I suspect one of these cases will land in SCOTUS’ lap someday soon. Based on Jones and Carpenter, this betting man would be putting his money on SCOTUS striking using the collected data without a warrant. SCOTUS seems really, really wary of Governmental use of electronic data collection and surveillance. Thank God!

    Here’s a site with a small collection of ALPR cases:

    • TS


      Then it sounds like a tweak of the SW will need to happen so as the ALPR is reading plates, it can only alert the LEO on duty when a license plate of concern, e.g. Amber Alert, GTA, investigative reasoning, etc, has been read and requiring action.

      If not, then I could see this quickly also turning into DUI central checking for those who are possible DUI recidivists outside of watering holes to pull them over to just check if they are DUI.

      • AJ

        If not, then I could see this quickly also turning into DUI central checking for those who are possible DUI recidivists outside of watering holes to pull them over to just check if they are DUI.
        Oh it’s more than ripe for abuse. I’d be stunned if it already hasn’t been used in some oppressive manner such as this. Thin Blue Liars cannot help themselves and care not one whit about that pesky Constitution. It just gets in the way of what they “know” to be right, dontcha know?

        In the immortal words of Captain Renault: “Round up the usual suspects!”

  14. David Kennerly, The Government-Driven Life

    Remember Vigilance Solutions? (Think: “Vigilante Solutions”) This, from 2015: “Vigilant Solutions announces today that its LEARN analytic software and commercial LPR data helped a Southern California law enforcement agency locate and apprehend a suspect in a sexual assault case against a mother and her two young daughters. Because of the nature of this case, the agency has requested to remain anonymous and have certain aspects of the case obscured.

    One of the detectives on the case explains, “On July 4th, a mother and her two young daughters were exiting a grocery store, when a vehicle pulled in front of them and obstructed their path of travel. The driver of the vehicle leered at the young girls while holding an article of children’s clothing and making an inappropriate sexual gesture. From the mother’s account, we had a description of the suspect and his vehicle, but only had a partial license plate. We were unable to identify or locate the suspect and vehicle by conventional means or through other law enforcement databases.”

    “I ran a partial license plate search in the LEARN software, accessing over 80 million license plate detections in our immediate area, and almost 4 billion nationwide, and located one plate in our area that matched the vehicle description given by the mother. Using a different system, and with a permissible purpose authorized by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, I ran a records check of the registered owner that revealed the vehicle belonged to a registered sex offender residing in the area. A search warrant was obtained for the suspect’s residence and articles of children’s clothing were discovered. The suspect was arrested without incident.”

    The detective concludes, “Basically we were able to identify this sexual predator in a matter of minutes using LEARN where conventional investigative and policing methods had failed. This could have taken much longer to accomplish the same result, possibly endangering many more potential victims.”

    I’m not sure how this is “sexual assault” and not simply ill-conceived, boorish behavior (alleged) but this is what the company, itself, seems to think is a terrific use for their license-plate reader dragnet. Also, how hard is it to get a search warrant these days? Apparently, any excuse will work.

  15. Brian

    They have a similar system in pa but it’s to read plates for invalid or expired registration, but I’m sure it does that it’s doing in Kentucky and other places, I think the LEOS have a little more dignity for registrants where I live but I could be wrong.

  16. JesusH

    There has to be a legal way around this somehow…

    I don’t want my wife driving around with a big flag on her car saying “SO”. What if she’s driving to lunch with a coworker and she gets pulled over?

    And what about my kids? My kids will be driving soon. They don’t know my situation, thankfully I’ve been able to hide it from them but what if the get pulled over?

    How is all of this not just a punishment, but ‘cruel and unusual’? It could be affecting my family directly even when I’m not there… that’s cruel and unusual!

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