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Why are Wrightsville Beach police allowed to run license plates of cars without violations?

Brian Freskos

While plate owners’ names are protected from the general public, the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act carves out an exemption for law enforcement, allowing police access to driver information, said Marge Howell, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Wrightsville Beach Police

Wrightsville Beach Chief of Police John Carey said the law allows any officer in any part of the state to run a vehicle’s license plate and access criminal histories, vehicle registrations, plate statuses and much more information.

“That plate belongs to the state,” Carey said.

Running license plates is nothing unique to the Wrightsville Beach Police Department. But Wrightsville Beach has drawn attention recently over ongoing attempts to install a license plate recognition system on the drawbridge, the only vehicular access point tp the island.

But Carey said New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington intend on installing license plate recognition system in all major access areas so police are notified when a wanted criminal enters the area. That effort has drawn criticism from people arguing such a system would constitute a violation of privacy, but law enforcement contends police have legal access to such driver information.

Carey said Wrightsville Beach has entered into a ports and waterway security joint grant application with the county and city to secure funding for the town’s license plate recognition system.

Related links:

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Can a police officer randomly stop people on the sidewalk and require them to produce identification?

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One Response to “ Why are Wrightsville Beach police allowed to run license plates of cars without violations?”

  1. On January 20, 2017 at 6:34 pm Dave wrote:

    This is not at all accurate. Regardless of what the police cheifs, sheriffs, or DMV say, the right to remain secure in your personal and private effects trumps any argument the state would like to present. If you go back on the books there was an incident in north carolina some years ago in which an officer pulled someone based in their license plate status. The officer asked to search the car and found a large volume of cocain. A mistrial was declared due to lack of probable cause. Because the officer had no probable cause to pull the vehicle over or to run the license plate and gain access to that private information in the first place. So even though the individual was in fact guilty of possesion and trafficking of cocain with intent to distribute, his case was dismissed because the officer had no right to stop the vehicle or to run his plate and find out there was an issue. Probable cause determins the legality of acquiring private information. Meaning, even though the state of north carolina owns the plate, they do not own the information which is why highway patrolmen have also been discharged for running the plates of others simply to acquire the information. You MUST have probable cause to request the information. Otherwise, you are violating a citizen’s right to privacy, the fourth amendment, a staple of a free society. They serve us, they are not the Gestapo. Dont spread their propaganda that they can do it because they can.. That’s a lie. Thanks!

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