San Diego judge tentatively rejects bid for license plate records

A judge has tentatively turned down a request by MP3 creator Michael Robertson for records about his license plates.
(Gregory Bull / AP)

A San Diego Superior Court judge has tentatively turned down a request by the founder of the MP3 Internet music site for information about his license plates gathered through high-tech scanning.

Judge Katherine Bacal tentatively ruled this week that the records, retained by the San Diego Assn. of Governments on behalf of local law enforcement agencies, are exempt from the state’s Public Records Act. A final ruling is expected next week.

Michael Robertson had sued for access to his records on the grounds that keeping such information is an example of governmental over-reach and that disclosure is necessary to safeguard individual rights.


“If I’m not being investigated for a crime, there shouldn’t be a secret police file on me,” Robertson told the Associated Press.

But the government association, at the request of law enforcement agencies, fought the request in court.

“We saw these as records of investigations used by law enforcement and thus exempt from the Public Records Act,” said Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG.

The agency acts as the repository of the records, Gallegos said. The records have been useful, for example, in helping police locate stolen cars, he said.

In August, a judge in Los Angeles rejected a request similar to that of Robertson’s.

Funded by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement agencies and regional governmental agencies like SANDAG have begun keeping databases of license plate numbers gathered by scanning. The databases keep information about where and when the license plates were spotted.