Event data recorders: Automobile black-box information in DUI manslaughter cases
The first form of an automobile “black box” was first introduced by General Motors in 1990. Although somewhat rudimentary in comparison to today's event data recorders, the DERM system served a very similar function and paved the way to the widespread use of the ever-evolving device used today. Use of the device was so successful when first introduced that crash impact recorders were approved just three years later by the United States Auto Club for use in the 1993 Indianapolis 500.
Since that time EDRs had become standard equipment on production automobiles which has led to much debate regarding use of the evidence obtained by them in Florida criminal cases. Arguments with regard to the accuracy of data obtained as well as privacy issues have fallen in favor of EDR devices on both accounts.
In Florida, evidence obtained by an automobile's black box is considered widely accepted in well-established technology. Although both the device and the data recorded by it are considered property of the vehicle owner, the state of Florida provides no significant privacy protection when it comes to criminal prosecution according to criminal defense attorneys. Both prosecutors and the courts have found that an individual simply does not have the same expectation of privacy with regard to blackbox data as opposed to the automobile in general.
Criminal investigators have a duty to preserve EDR evidence
When a police officer reconstructs a collision with the intent of utilizing the results of the investigation or furtherance of criminal prosecution than that officer should preserve any event data recorder information. Although most commonly used to establish the speed at which a DUI manslaughter defendant was driving at the time of the crash, EDRs also record information specific to the date and time of the collision, depth of the accelerator pedal, steering angle, breaking pattern, throttle position, turn signal operation, seatbelt status, airbag deployment status and the force of impact. The prosecution's use of this information has not only been used successfully by the State Attorney’s Office in drunk driving cases involving significant injury or death but also in hit and run cases involving a fatality, culpable vehicular homicide and premeditated murder cases (where EDR data discredited a defendant account of how the victim was killed).
Black box evidence can significantly impact either the prosecutor’s or defense lawyer’s case
According to William R. Moore, a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale Florida, blackbox evidence is extremely powerful when used in conjunction with expert traffic crash investigators. The corroborative evidence can be quite significant when it comes to either bolstering or discrediting either the prosecutor or defense attorney’s expert witness. Occasionally a DUI manslaughter or vehicular homicide case will involve an automobile that became airborne prior to the collision resulting in very little tire tread evidence which is crucial to an accurate investigation. In such cases, event data recorder information can be considered paramount.
When asked how he felt about Florida's denying right to privacy and reliability claims, attorney Moore explained that we have seen that same thing for years in DUI cases using CMI Intoxilyzers. A computer spits out data and prosecutors use it as their primary basis to prove their case beyond into the exclusion of any and all reasonable doubt. It’s kind of scary.
Questions about the use of automobile black box data evidence in Florida criminal cases, contact lawyer William R. Moore directly by calling 954-523-5333 or visiting One Financial Plaza, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394.