A Florida appeals court ruled today that police needed a warrant to access data stored in a "black box" in a vehicle driven by a suspected durnk driver. The vehicle was involved in a car accident that resulted in the wrongful death of a passenger. A so-called black box is also known as an "event data recorder" and are installed in all modern vehicles. The devices record such data as vehicle speed as well as turning and braking data, and can be downloaded by law enforcement officials to reconstruct the events leading up to a car accident resulting in serious personal injuries and/or wrongful death.
The appeals court reasoned that drivers have an expectation of privacy in the data and likened the data stored in a black box to the personal information stored in a modern cell phone. The 2-1 ruling was seen as a major victory by privacy rights advocates as it requires law enforcement officials to first show "probable cause" in order to obtain a search warrant to access the black box data.
Black box data can also be used by a personal injury attorney to prove negligence of a driver in a car accident resulting in personal injuries or wrongful death. The ruling did not address the use of black box data in a civil personal injury claim.