Cars these days more closely resemble computers than they do their ancestors, and that can be a big deal when it comes to the law. Car computers are constantly collecting and using data as you drive, but questions are beginning to arise about how much of that information police can access.

99.6% of consumer cars come with a black box, or a recording device that saves important car data. They can also store cell phone information, communications and GPS-coordinates. This information can make or break a criminal case, but police in Georgia may now need a warrant before they take a peek.

Digital decisions

Georgia argued last year in Mobley v. State that any evidence inside of a car involved in an accident is subject to search. While the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly agreed to this statement for physical items, the same allowances may not extend to digital data.

Officers at the scene of Victor Lamont Mobley’s crash downloaded information from his airbag control model, the black box, which revealed information regarding his actions prior to the crash. The data showed that Mobley was traveling around 100 mph leading up to the crash, and the investigator on the case then applied for a warrant to remove the black box for further study.

Collecting clearance

The trial court convicted Mobley of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and speeding after an unsuccessful petition to suppress the digital evidence. The defendant appealed the case up to the Georgia Supreme Court, where they agreed the lower court made a mistake in rejecting the suppression. The higher court referenced the Fourth Amendment, and stated the law of the land required the officers to obtain a warrant before pulling the data.

Cars are storing more details about you than ever before, but you have rights when it comes to who can access those records. Knowing what the laws are in relation to that precious information can protect you from unconstitutional consequences.