SC Criminal DUI Defense: The Question Of Accessing EDR Data Without Warrant

Vehicles in the US having the Event Data Recorders (EDR) is not news anymore. These have been in place for a few decades and are quite helpful when the vehicle is involved in an accident. Here is a bit of information about EDR and how they impact Greenville criminal DUI defense.

What Is EDR?

EDRs or black boxes are devices installed in vehicles equipped with sensing and diagnostic equipment and computer programs. These can track and record information regarding the vehicle and the occupant and about any experiences of the crash or near-crash events. While some EDRs keep recording data and storing it, others overwrite information after a specific time, and others store only data of crash events.

In recent years, you can find vehicles installed with EDRs that are connected to the internet. Unlike their predecessors, these devices send data directly to the manufactures and do not store it locally. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has specified that all vehicles be installed with EDRs that collect the following data.

  • Time and force of applying the brake
  • Whether seat belts restrained the passengers
  • Time-of-impact speed
  • Time and deployment of airbags
  • The steering wheel angle
  • Speed of the engine

How EDR Can Be of Help

Making EDRs mandatory in vehicles has resulted in a new way of looking at road accidents. The data in the EDR of the collided vehicle can give a better picture of the whole event of the collision both before and after. This means that information regarding the pre-crash, crash, and post-crash is all stored in this device for future use by relevant personnel.

Apart from using as evidence in vehicle collision cases, this data is helpful in other scenarios. The vehicles having EDRs can be analyzed by different agencies that take care of the road transport to understand the general behavior of drivers and vehicles on the road that leads to thousands of accidents that happen on the road in the US.

There is much scope in improving the working of EDR and the usage of data from it. For example, the technology can be advanced in order to provide better inputs for highway crash data analysis to minimize such crashes.

Criminal DUI Defense: Do Police Need a Warrant to Get EDR Data?

For cases involving crimes like DUI-related ones, the prosecutors ask to see the data collected by the EDR to help them in the case. But one question that needs clarity here is whether law enforcement can get the EDR data without a warrant. This issue is yet to be clarified by the South Carolina courts. An SC criminal DUI defense may be predicated on this fact.

Once, a court in Florida stated that a warrant was necessary to access the data from EDR. The case was regarding a high-speed crash where a passenger was killed. The driver of the vehicle, who was the defendant, was charged with vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter. The officers from the law enforcement officials obtained the EDR data from the vehicle without a warrant. This was reason enough for the defendant’s lawyer to suppress the evidence got from the EDR.

The trial court was against suppressing the evidence, but the Florida Court of Appeals was in favor. It highlighted the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution that shields the citizens from seizures and searches that are not reasonable. The court explained that the rights supported by the Fourth Amendment are concerned with basic rights for privacy that are considered reasonable by society.

Basically, the court favored the citizens’ right to maintain privacy regarding the data contained in the EDR. With respect to the exterior of a vehicle, the court said that as ‘it is thrust into the public eye,’ one cannot expect to have privacy here. But an EDR is very similar to any other storage device protected under the Fourth Amendment. So the data contained in it needs some privacy.

At the Bateman Firm, we predict that when a need arises, the courts in South Carolina will need a valid warrant for law enforcement to get the EDR data.

Call Our Greenville DUI Defense Lawyers Today

We understand that criminal DUI defense is a sensitive subject. If you or someone you know has been charged by DUI and you need to have more information and assistance, our DUI lawyers are here to help you.

For information, contact the cutting-edge DUI defense at The Bateman Firm. We have offices in Greenville, Clemson, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. Additionally, we are available via telephone. Call us today at 864-406-3004.

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