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Car black boxes and warrants

There are certain constitutional protections individuals have when it comes to police investigations. One of these is that there are certain actions that police are generally not allowed to take unless they first get a search warrant. If police fail to get a warrant for such an action, the admissibility of evidence found through the action could be challenged. So, whether any illegal warrantless searches occurred can be an impactful issue in criminal cases. Looking into whether police violated any constitution protections, such as the warrant requirement, in an investigation is among the things skilled defense attorneys can do for individuals accused of crimes here in Florida.

Now, as time and technology progress, new potential sources for evidence for police arise. For example, in recent times, there has been a great rise in the amount of data collection devices out there. How common data collection devices have become raises questions regarding which such devices police need warrants to access.

Recently, a Florida court made a decision in a case looking at this issue for one particular type of such device: automobile black boxes. These devices record/store data on a variety of things regarding a car. Black boxes are present on most cars these days.

The case involves a man who was involved in a fatal car accident in Florida. The man faces allegations of vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter.

Reportedly, after the accident occurred, police accessed the information on the black box of the man’s car without a warrant. In the criminal proceedings brought against him, the man challenged the admissibility of the information found on the black box, claiming that a warrant was required.

The trial judge ruled the evidence inadmissible. Prosecutors then appealed the matter to a state appeals court: the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

This court, in its decision, upheld the trial judge’s decision. The court ruled that a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” when it comes to the data in their car’s black box and that thus a search warrant is generally required for police to access such data.

So far, there haven’t been that many cases in the country touching on this issue. Given how common auto black boxes are, whether these devices fall under the warrant requirement could be incredibly impactful. One wonders what the future of this legal issue will be here in Florida and the U.S. as a whole.

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