In British Columbia, law enforcement agencies utilize Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology to assist police in removing unlawful drivers from the roads and to identify traffic violations and criminal activities that might otherwise go unnoticed. The technology was first used by law enforcement in BC in 2006 to help identify stolen vehicles. The expanded use of this technology will increase the number of unlicensed, uninsured, and prohibited drivers charged.


What is an ALPR?

The ALPR uses infrared cameras to scan licence plates much faster than a police officer can manually input licence plates, which is the most common method police use to check for uninsured, unlicensed, and prohibited drivers. Mounted on police vehicles, these cameras capture licence plate information from both parked and moving vehicles. The scanned data is then compared against a secure hot list generated daily from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) databases. As the ALPR allows police to passively scan thousands of vehicles during a shift, the chances of unlicensed, uninsured, and prohibited drivers being pulled over and charged accordingly are increased.


How Does it Work?

 The ICBC database provides information on licence plates associated with unlicensed drivers, uninsured motor vehicles, and drivers prohibited or suspended under the Motor Vehicle Act or Criminal Code. On the other hand, the CPIC database offers information on license plates linked to stolen vehicles, Canada-wide and B.C.-wide warrants, and Amber alerts. However, not every police vehicle is equipped with an ALPR.

At the start of each shift, the hot list is loaded into ALPR-equipped police vehicles. The ALPR itself has no real-time access to ICBC or CPIC driver databases. Instead, when a scanned license plate matches an entry on the hot list, an audible alert notifies the police officer. The officer must then manually confirm the hit against the live ICBC and CPIC databases that are accessible on the laptops mounted in the police vehicle. If the hit is confirmed, appropriate action is taken by the officer.

In the event of a hit, the ALPR system records information such as the vehicle’s image, licence plate number, date, time, GPS coordinates, and the nature of the hit. The police officer also documents the actions taken.


Privacy Concerns

While there are some privacy concerns regarding the use of image-capturing devices in law enforcement, when a license plate scan does not yield a hit, the data related to that particular plate is supposed to be deleted from the ALPR system at the end of the officer’s shift. For statistical purposes, only the date, time, and GPS coordinates are retained.

Moreover, the requirement of deleting the non-hit data was recommended by the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner in 2012 (March 25, 2002 ( The Privacy Commissioner had a series of recommendations, but chiefly, that if police stored data from non-hit scans, then police would be in violation of British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

If you have been charged with a driving offence, contact us today. Filkow Law has extensive experience and success in defending driving charges.