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Mas Canosa v. Coral Gables

CASE: Raul Mas Canosa v. City of Coral Gables

STATUS: Closed

NCLA ROLE: Counsel

COURTS HEARD IN: 3rd Fla. Cir., 11th Fla. Jud. Cir.

ORIGINAL COURT: Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade county, FL

DECIDING COURT: Florida Third Circuit Court of Appeal

OPENED: October 5, 2018

AGENCIES: City of Coral Gables | Florida | Florida Department of Law Enforcement | Florida Department of State

FOCUS AREAS:

Guidance Abuse

Agency guidance is easier to promulgate than formal rules and regulations, so agencies prefer to issue it. Such “guidance” supplies relatively informal indications of how an agency interprets rules and statutes. Although guidance is not permitted to bind Americans (unlike laws made by elected legislators), agencies treat guidance as binding and courts often fail to stop them.

Unreasonable Searches

The Fourth Amendment forbids warrantless searches and seizures of information, yet the Administrative State violates this right to privacy through administrative subpoenas and warrants, automated information collection devices, civil investigative demands, and “voluntary” requests for information.

Did we achieve our litigation objective? No, the court held that automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) deployed by the City of Coral Gables did not violate the client’s Fourth Amendment rights and that the City could rely on state guidance.

Court Outcome: The Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County ruled that Coral Gables was allowed to continue using ALPRs to track and monitor its citizens.

Larger Impact: Administrative agencies have increasingly disregarded both the right to privacy contained in the Fourth Amendment and laws defining agencies’ legal authority. To reverse this trend, it is important that courts safeguard constitutional rights and prohibit administrative agencies from using guidance as a substitute for formal rulemaking.

Summary: Coral Gables is an upscale, historic municipality of Miami-Dade County, Florida. Residents take pride in their tree-lined streets and so they call it “City Beautiful.” But the city has now lined the streets with Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs). One resident is not happy about it and is taking the city and the state government to task.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance is suing the City of Coral Gables as well as the Florida Department of State (FDOS) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), on behalf of long-time Coral Gables resident, Raul Mas Canosa. Mr. Mas Canosa says the city’s use of Automatic License Plate Readers, is a violation of Florida Law and Floridians’ Fourth Amendment rights to privacy.

The ALPR system tracks all vehicle traffic and stores the date for three years. It also allows law enforcement to pore over those records for security purposes, but the City has never identified a single crime that has been solved by this system.

There are currently 30 ALPRs strategically placed at nearly every major artery in the city, including I-95, scanning and recording the license plate number of every vehicle that passes, capturing the registered owner and the time, date and location of the vehicle when it was captured. To date, this single system have collected tens of millions of license plate images.

Aggregated, this data paints a revealing picture about a person. And it does so concerning the hundreds of thousands of people within the ALPR system.

FDLE and FDOS claim to have given permission for cities like Coral Gables to install their ALPR systems. But state administrative agencies cannot authorize such activity on their own initiative without formal administrative rules.

These agencies regulate through guidance, which is not how our government works. Ultimately, only Florida’s legislature has the power to approve the use of ALPRs. Allowing these agencies to police themselves subverts the democratic process entirely. Administrative entities don’t get to decide which constitutional rights Floridians may enjoy and municipalities like Coral Gables can’t hide behind big government.

More fundamentally, the city’s ALPR system purportedly authorized by FDOS and FDLE is simply unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and  Article I, Section 23 of the Florida State Constitution.

Raul Mas Canosa, Plaintiff

Sheng Li
Litigation Counsel
NCLA FILINGS

Decision of the Florida Third District Court of Appeal

April 26, 2023 | Read More

Appellant’s Reply Brief

July 12, 2022 | Read More

Appellants Initial Brief

December 13, 2021 | Read More

Amended Order on Parties Cross Motions for Summary Judgment

October 4, 2021 | Read More

Plaintiff’s Response to Defendant Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Motion for Summary Judgment

June 23, 2021 | Read More

PRESS RELEASES

NCLA Appeals Case Contesting Data Collection of Automatic License Plate Readers in Coral Gables, FL

December 14, 2021 | Read More

NCLA Asks Miami Court to Stop Coral Gables from Using ALPRs to Violate Drivers’ Privacy Interests

June 2, 2021

Florida Judge Greenlights NCLA Lawsuit Alleging Unconstitutional Use of Automatic License Plate Readers

October 25, 2019

NCLA Video Shows Problem with Use of License Plate Readers

September 26, 2019

NCLA Sues City of Coral Gables, Florida Calling Its Use of Automated License Plate Readers ‘Nakedly Unconstitutional’

October 23, 2018

IN THE MEDIA

Use of Automatic License Plate Readers In Jacksonville, FL

CBS Jacksonville

February 7, 2023

Big Brother Grows Bigger, Bold & Blunt Podcast

The Washington Times

February 7, 2023

Coral Gables Resident Can Move Forward With Suing City Over Use Of Automated License Plate Readers

CBS 4 Miami

February 7, 2023

Big Brother grows alarmingly bigger, one automated license-plate reader at a time

The Washington Times

February 7, 2023

NCLA client, Raul Mas Canosa sues City of Coral Gables for their use of ALPRs

Telemundo

February 7, 2023

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