Automobile Black Boxes As Evidence

On May 11, 2015, New Jersey’s then Governor Christie, signed legislation limiting access to automobile event data recorders, also known as “black boxes.”  Most new vehicles have these devices, which record pertinent information relating to the operation of the motor vehicle.  The law defines who owns the data recorded on these devices. The legislation states that the recorders and the data belong solely to the vehicle’s owner; and it restricts third parties from accessing this data except in certain defined situations.  The data recorded can include the car’s speed, direction of travel, geographical location, as well as steering and braking data.  Obviously this data can be useful to a wide variety of parties, including marketers, auto repair shops, law enforcement, and others.  It can also be vitally important in a personal injury case where to determine the operation of the involved vehicles.

The law specifically requires law enforcement officers to obtain a subpoena or warrant in order to obtain this information; and requires parties to a civil suit to issue a subpoena or other valid discovery request.  The data can also be used to assist in the automobile design and repair; and to improve traffic and motor vehicle safety; and by first responders to assist in rendering aid to an injured person.  What this means is that a marketing company cannot remotely access this information to send you travel coupons or offers for new tires; and law enforcement cannot access this information during a traffic stop to confirm whether or not you were speeding.  It can be accessed if necessary in connection with a criminal investigation or civil lawsuit, but only if the information is properly requested.

Written by Larry Kroll, Attorney At Law, May 2015

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