What might have started as a casual trip to the mall could end as a trip to jail in at least one Illinois community. In October, the Belleville, Illinois police department began catching criminals by using an automated camera to read license plates.

Perched on top of an unmarked car, Belleville police use the automated license reader to check for matches of license plates associated with arrest warrants or other criminal activity. When a match is found, nearby officers move in to stop the driver.

In its first four hours, the Belleville reader captured seven local and eight out-of-state warrants, led to 56 stops, 13 traffic citations and one arrest for violating an order of protection. And all this for the camera’s low cost of $17,000, which could make it irresistible as a crime fighting tool to municipalities struggling to balance their budgets. Which means that in the future, the automated reader could become as prevalent as the red light cameras are today.

If you are stopped because of a automated reader camera, what can you do? Be courteous, but as with any police stop, the less said the better. If you are taken into police custody, you must say “I wish to remain silent and I want an attorney,” in order to trigger your Miranda rights (or the officers can keep questioning you). Any attempt to explain yourself could unwittingly give police the evidence they need to convict you.

If you are arrested, you should contact an experienced criminal or traffic law attorney immediately. Even if an automated reader made it easier to catch you, the state must still prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case in hopes of winning a dismissal. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, the attorney may be able to obtain a better plea bargain for you than you could get on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related DUI, criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

About mdkeenan

A criminal and school law attorney with over 17 years of experience, I have successfully represented clients all over the Chicago area. My practice includes DUI, felony, criminal, misdemeanor, homicide, internet crime, retail theft, traffic offenses, cyberstalking, drug crimes, weapons violations, domestic battery and juvenile crime. I also represent families involving school cases. My clients come from all over the Chicago area including Skokie, Wilmette, Niles, Northbrook, Glenview, Evanston, Winnetka, Highland park, Northfield, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Mount Prospect. I am a member of the ACLU and the Illinois State Bar Association. I serve as a volunteer for First Defense Legal Aid. Se habla espanol.
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