The Champion

May 2009 , Page 12 

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Retrieving Black Box Evidence From Vehicles: Uses and Abuses of Vehicle Data Recorder Evidence in Criminal Trials

By Dorothy J. Glancy

Over 40 million cars, including virtually every new car sold in the United States,1 have hidden recording devices. Most vehicle owners have no way of knowing about these devices, which are actually small special-purpose computers called event data recorders (EDRs). An integral part of a vehicle’s air bag passive restraint protection, the event data recorder “wakes up” the vehicle’s passive restraint systems and triggers air bag activation. As the event data recorder’s name implies, the device also records the last few seconds before a crash or near-crash, primarily for the purposes of research regarding the safety of vehicles and roadways. However, gradually the EDR’s role has expanded to include many additional uses, including providing evidence of driver behavior and vehicle speed in criminal trials.

Reported decisions illustrate the tendency of courts to admit EDR data as scientific or technical evidence in both civil and criminal cases. What criminal defense attorneys need to know

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