Your mobile phone isn’t the only thing getting more technologically sophisticated. So too are police crime-fighting techniques. In October, the Belleville, Illinois police department began catching criminals by using an automated camera to read license plates.

The $17,000 automated license reader is placed on top of an unmarked car. As drivers pass by, the reader checks for matches against plates associated with arrest warrants or other criminal activity. When a match is found, nearby officers move in for the arrest.

In its first four hours, the Belleville reader captured seven local and eight out-of-state warrants, led to 56 stops and one arrest for violating an order of protection.

From a civil liberty point of view, this new use of technology is pretty alarming. A casual trip to the mall can turn into a trip to jail even if you did not give police probable cause to stop you.
If you are stopped because of a camera, what can you do?

As with any police stop, the less said the better. If you are taken into police custody, you should specifically say “I wish to remain silent and I want an attorney,” in order to trigger your Miranda rights (or the officers can keep questioning you). Any attempt to explain yourself could unwittingly give police the evidence they need to convict you.

If you are arrested, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Even if an automated reader made it easier to catch you, the state must still prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case in hopes of winning a dismissal. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, the attorney may be able to obtain a better plea bargain for you than you could get on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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