AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA et al., Petitioners,
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Real Parties in Interest.
Court Los Angeles County No. BS143004, Ct.App. 2/3 B259392.
James C. Chalfant Judge.
Bibring and Catherine A. Wagner for Petitioner American Civil
Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California.
Jennifer Lynch for Petitioner Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Townsend for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the
Press, American Society of News Editors, Association of
Alternative Newsmedia, California Newspaper Publishers
Association, Californians Aware, The Center for Investigative
Reporting, First Amendment Coalition, Los Angeles Times
Communications LLC, The McClatchy Company, The National Press
Club, National Press Photographers Association, Online News
Association and Society of Professional Journalists as Amici
Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.
Amendment Project, James R. Wheaton and Cherokee D.M. Melton
for Northern California Chapter of the Society of
Professional Journalists as Amicus Curiae on behalf of
Rotenberg, Alan Butler, Jeramie Scott and Aimee Thomson for
Electronic Privacy Information Center as Amicus Curiae on
behalf of Petitioners.
D. Russell and Richard A. Schwartz for Senator Jerry Hill as
Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.
appearance for Respondent.
& Mayer, Martin J. Mayer, James R. Touchstone and Deborah
Pernice-Knefel for California State Sheriffs'
Association, California Police Chiefs' Association and
California Peace Officers' Association as Amici Curiae on
behalf of Respondent.
Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney (Los Angeles), Carlos de La
Guerra, Managing Assistant City Attorney, Debra L. Gonzales
and Amy Jo Field, Assistant City Attorneys, Lisa S. Berger
and Heather L. Aubry, Deputy City Attorneys, for Real Parties
in Interest City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Police
Collins Collins Muir Stewart, Eric Brown, Tomas A. Guterres
and James C. Jardin for Real Parties in Interest County of
Los Angeles and Los Angeles Sheriffs' Department.
Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, Aleksan R. Giragosian,
Michael G. Colantuono and Michael R. Cobden for League of
California Cities and California State Association of
Counties as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in
parties in interest, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)
of the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Sheriff's
Department (LASD) of the County of Los Angeles (collectively,
real parties) employ automated license plate reader (ALPR)
technology in order to locate vehicles linked to crimes under
investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation
of Southern California (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier
Foundation (collectively, petitioners) filed a request under
the California Public Records Act (CPRA) for all ALPR data
collected during a one-week period. (Gov. Code, § 6250
et seq.) Petitioners sought disclosure of this
ALPR data “so that the legal and policy implications of
the government's use of ALPRs to collect vast amounts of
information on almost exclusively law-abiding [citizens of
Los Angeles] may be fully and fairly debated.”
initially granted review to determine whether the requested
ALPR data are exempt from disclosure as falling within the
CPRA provision protecting police and state “[r]ecords
of... investigations” under section 6254, subdivision
(f) (section 6254(f)). As relevant here, section 6254(f)
protects from disclosure: “Records of investigations
conducted by... any state or local police
granting review, we requested additional briefing on a second
issue: Whether the catchall exemption in section 6255,
subdivision (a) (section 6255(a)) authorizes real parties to
withhold the requested ALPR data. Under section 6255(a), a
public agency may “justify withholding any record by
demonstrating that on the facts of the particular case the
public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly
outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the
conceded in the trial court that section 6254(f) protects
from disclosure the ALPR license plate scan data that matches
vehicles linked to law enforcement investigations under
section 6254(f). They do not argue that real parties' use
of the ALPR technology is unlawful. They contend only that
ALPR scan data are not exempt from disclosure under the CPRA.
trial court determined that the data requested came within
section 6254(f)'s “[r]ecords of...
investigations” exemption. The court also concluded
that section 6255(a)'s catchall provision authorized real
parties to withhold the data. The Court of Appeal affirmed
the judgment based on section 6254(f), without reaching the
section 6255(a) question. In light of our constitutional
obligation to broadly construe the CPRA in a manner that
furthers the people's right of access to the conduct of
governmental operations, and to narrowly construe any
exemptions (Cal. Const., art. I, § 3, subd. (b)(2)), we
disagree with the trial court and the Court of Appeal that
the ALPR scan data at issue here are subject to section
6254(f)'s exemption for records of investigations. In
addition, although we agree with the trial court that the
public interest in nondisclosure of raw ALPR scan data
clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure of such
data (§ 6255(a)), we remand for further consideration of
whether the raw data may reasonably be anonymized or redacted
such that the balance of interests would shift and disclosure
of the data would be required under the CPRA.
relevant facts are generally not in dispute. The ALPR data
collection system at issue here utilizes high-speed
computer-controlled cameras mounted on fixed structures or on
patrol cars. The cameras automatically capture an image of
the license plate of each vehicle that passes through their
optical range. For each image, the ALPR system uses character
recognition software and almost instantly checks the license
plate number against a list of license plate numbers that
have been associated with crimes, child abduction AMBER
alerts, or outstanding warrants. This list of license plate
numbers comprises the investigative “hot list.”
When a hot list match occurs, the system alerts either
officers in a patrol car or a central dispatch unit,
depending on whether the ALPR unit that detects a match ...