Louisiana uses automated license plate readers (ALPR, also known as ALPR) to identify and track every motorist entering the state. The system’s use in an everyday traffic stop was revealed after a state trooper used the extensive tracking database to catch a driver in a lie about his recent movements. That validity of the stop was challenged, but US District Judge James D. Cain Jr last month upheld its legitimacy. On Tuesday, Judge Cain set a November 4 trial date to fully resolve the case of Eric J. Richard, the man who had been tracked.
Richard had been driving his white Buick LaCrosse on Interstate 10 during the evening of October 25, 2017, when he was stopped by Louisiana State Police Trooper Luke Leger for allegedly following a truck too closely. During the roadside interrogation, the trooper asked where Richard was coming from.
“I was coming from my job right there in Vinton,” Richard replied.
The trooper had already looked up the travel records for Richard’s car and already knew it had crossed into Louisiana from Texas earlier in the day. Based on this “apparent lie,” the trooper extended the traffic stop by asking more questions and calling in a drug dog. The dog found a kilogram of cocaine, leading to serious drug charges against Richard.
The state police had no reason to track Richard prior to the traffic stop, but his inconsistent statements and general nervousness presented sufficient reason for the trooper to extend his investigation during the traffic stop, the court ruled.
“Richard stated at the scene that he was coming from his job in Vinton, Louisiana, when the computer system showed that he had crossed the border into Texas earlier in the day and that he crossed from Texas into Louisiana only a short time prior to the stop,” US Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay wrote in the recommendation adopted by the district judge. “We conclude that under the totality of the circumstances at hand, in light of Trooper Leger’s own training and experience with regard to drug trafficking, Trooper Leger had reasonable suspicion to believe that Richard was involved in drug trafficking.”
The court took no issue with the mass tracking system. A copy of the report and recommendation is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.
US v. Richard (US District Court, Western District of Louisiana, 8/23/2019)