Mas Canosa v. City of Coral Gables

CASE 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.

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CASE STATUS:
The defendants have moved to dismiss the case, which Mr. Mas Canosa has opposed.

CASE START DATE:
October 5, 2018

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

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

 

CASE DOCUMENTS

Mar 13, 2019 | Notice of Hearing – Canosa vs. City of Coral Gables

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the following will be called up for hearing before the Honorable Abby Cynamon, Dade County Courthouse, 73 West Flagler Street, Room DCC 817, Miami, Florida 33130, on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 2:00 p.m., or as soon thereafter as same can be heard:

DEFENDANT CITY OF CORAL GABLES’ MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT AND INCORPORATED MEMORANDUM OF LAW

FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE AND FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE OR, ALTERNATIVELY, DISMISS FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT’S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S AMENDED COMPLAINT

PLEASE BE GOVERNED ACCORDINGLY.

Read complete Notice Of Hearing.

Jan 18, 2019 | Plaintiff's Response to Defendant Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

Plaintiff, Raul Mas Canosa, files this response to a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Commissioner Richard L. Swearingen (referred to collectively as FDLE). For the reasons set out below, FDLE has not demonstrated that this
matter should be dismissed…

Click to read the complete document. 

Oct 5, 2018 | Raul Mas Canosa vs. City of Coral Gables, Florida Complaint

PRESS RELEASES

Oct 23, 2018 | NCLA Sues City of Coral Gables, Florida Calling Its Use of Automated License Plate Readers ‘Nakedly Unconstitutional’

Washington, DC, Oct. 23, 2018 — The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) filed a lawsuit against the City of Coral Gables, Florida; the Florida Department of State (FDOS); and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), on behalf of Gables resident Raúl Mas Canosa, citing the city’s Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) as a violation of Florida law and Floridians’ Fourth Amendment rights to privacy.

New Civil Liberties Alliance Litigation Counsel, Caleb Kruckenberg:
“The City’s ALPR system is nakedly unconstitutional. The FDLE never issued formal administrative rules, but rather gave law enforcement carte blanche permission to use ALPR systems, whenever and however it wants. Agencies are supposed to implement the law—not make it—and allowing these agencies to govern themselves subverts the democratic process entirely.”

NCLA takes issue with the collection and storage of sensitive license plate information without reasonable limits on the scope of data collected or its use. Coral Gables uses more than 30 ALPR devices located at major intersections and other strategic points around the city, and police estimate that by the end of 2018 the department will have scanned close to 30 million license plates.

Raúl Mas Canosa, Plaintiff
“I am not opposed to modern technology being used to safeguard our community and identify and capture criminals. Unfortunately, the system that Coral Gables has implemented does not discriminate between innocent citizens and lawbreakers.”

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids police from constantly monitoring a vehicle’s movements over time without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause. Just as significantly, Article I, Section 23 of the Florida State Constitution protects the ‘right of privacy’ of innocent citizens and limits the State’s collection and use of private information without first making a showing of compelling government interest. This means that tracking all vehicle traffic for years with an ALPR system and then allowing law enforcement to pore over the captured data without any individualized suspicion is unlawful.

NCLA demands the FDOS and the FDLE end these unchecked and illegal uses of ALPR cameras and that state courts take action to restore the balance of power to protect the residents of Florida.