Caldier bill would allow traffic safety cameras to be used in police investigations

A measure that would allow images and information from traffic safety cameras and photo toll booths to be used in investigations received a public hearing Monday in the House Public Safety Committee.

The measure is prime-sponsored by Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard.

“If a child was abducted and taken across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, under current law, even though the toll cameras may have captured the image of the license plate, law enforcement is not allowed to access that information in their investigation,” said Caldier. “I’m asking for a simple change in the law that would allow police, through the proper use of a warrant, to access those images so that people’s lives could be saved and the suspect could be brought to justice.”

The Legislature gave cities and counties the ability to use traffic enforcement cameras in 2005. The law stipulates that images from the cameras can only be used to enforce red light, railroad crossing and school speed zone violations. It also states that images are only to be of the vehicle and the license of the vehicle in violation. Similarly, photo toll systems are allowed only for traffic infractions and/or for toll collection and enforcement.

During the public hearing, Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey said there’s “a hole in our public safety system,” because law enforcement cannot obtain photo tolling information, even though there are many toll facilities across Washington using the latest technology to capture data of vehicles passing through.

“If data is available and it relates to a specific crime, it should be obtainable through a constitutionally-protected means — a search warrant obtained by an impartial arbiter — a judge,” said Busey. “I envision many scenarios where specific data could be used to solve serious crimes.”

House Bill 1229 would allow records for the exclusive use of enforcing related traffic infractions and tolls to be made available for criminal investigations and prosecution pursuant to a lawfully-issued search warrant. The records would not be open to the public.

“This bill would help bring justice to the victims of crimes caught on video,” said Caldier. “It would also protect the general public from general surveillance, because it would require law enforcement to get a warrant to review the footage or obtain the toll information.”

Action on the bill is pending before the House Public Safety Committee.


Washington State House Republican Communications