German Constitutional Court against indiscriminate car plate checks

12th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Their lawyer argued the automatic electronic checking of number plates was tantamount to "complete surveillance" of a large and arbitrary section of the general population.

Berlin -- Germany's Constitutional Court ruled against indiscriminate checks on vehicle number plates used by police in eight of Germany's 16 states to counter vehicle theft and other crime.

The ruling by the highest court applied to the states of Hesse and Schleswig Holstein, where three motorists had brought a test case.

Their lawyer argued the automatic electronic checking of number plates was tantamount to "complete surveillance" of a large and arbitrary section of the general population.

Lawyers for the states argued that data protection legislation was not involved, as the computers stored only the information that related to suspect vehicles and deleted the rest immediately.

The state of Hesse has used automatic mass checks of number plates since 2004, while the practice was authorized in Schleswig-Holstein only last year.

The authorities maintain that the number of "hits" stored by their computers is tiny in relation to the number checked, and that those caught in the net were mainly those who had failed to pay their insurance premiums.

Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate and Bavaria have similar checks in place, while Baden-Wuerttemberg has initiated draft legislation.

DPA with Expatica

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