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Mistake made by technology leads to near arrest of innocent woman

Technology companies across the nation are constantly trying to create innovations that they feel will help society considerably. One of these technologies is now being used by law enforcement here in California. But according to some, this technology is walking a fine line between helping police do their job more effectively and violating people’s constitutional rights as well.

The technology that is generating this legal issue is the license plate reader. Similar to facial recognition software, a license plate reader automatically scans a vehicle’s plate and displays the information to officers in the field. The systems are supposed to help with police work such as locating stolen vehicles. But as one case out of San Francisco shows, these systems aren’t always 100 percent accurate.

Some of our San Diego readers may remember hearing about the plight of the 50-year-old woman who was pulled over nearly five years ago when a license plate reader mistakenly identified her vehicle as being stolen. According to reports, she was told to exit her vehicle at gunpoint and was handcuffed before police realized that they had made a mistake.

As you can probably imagine, being wrongfully accused of vehicle theft was a terrifying event for the woman in this case, which is why she filed a lawsuit over it. Although her claim was dismissed by a lower court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, allowing her case to be heard again. The hope among many is that her case will highlight what can happen when these systems make mistakes and the legal ramifications that can follow for both the accused and police.

Source: NBC Bay Area, “Plans to Expand Scope of License-Plate Readers Alarm Privacy Advocates,” Ali Winston, June 17, 2014

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results