Can Data Stored by a Car Be Used in a Criminal Case?

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Hartford criminal law attorney for electronic evidenceElectronic data is a factor that plays an important role in an increasing number of criminal cases. Law enforcement officials use multiple different methods to collect data about suspects, including where they have traveled and the people they have contacted or associated with. While people are becoming more aware of the risks that their personal information may be accessed through their cell phones, they may not realize that the vehicles they drive may also be collecting information that could be accessed by law enforcement. 

The extent of this issue was recently made clear when The Intercept obtained a contract between U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a Swedish firm that provided “vehicle forensics kits.” This contract described the ways that CBP could use the firm’s technology to obtain evidence about how a vehicle was used, as well as data from cell phones or mobile devices that paired with a vehicle. While this specific contract only applied to CBP, other law enforcement agencies such as local police departments may have access to similar technology that will allow them to obtain vehicle data during criminal investigations.

Types of Data Collected by Vehicles

The computer systems on modern vehicles store a great deal of information that could be used to track a person’s movements and activities. A car’s telematics system can track the speed at which a vehicle has traveled, when headlights were switched on and off, when doors were opened, when seat belts were used, and much more. When combined with information from a vehicle’s navigation system, this may allow law enforcement to determine the locations a person has visited, whether they were carrying passengers, and when they stopped or exited their vehicle.

Many modern cars also include infotainment systems that allow drivers or passengers to pair smartphones or other electronic devices, make phone calls, or use GPS navigation apps. When pairing with a mobile device, a car will often download a great deal of information, such as contact lists, call logs, text messages, navigation history, and even emails, pictures, videos, and social media activity. In many cases, infotainment systems do not provide strong security, and this may allow law enforcement to gather information that would normally be protected on a person’s cell phone.

Contact Our Hartford, CT Criminal Defense Lawyer

While police officers or other law enforcement officials may be able to access your personal data through your vehicle, they are required to follow the laws when performing searches and obtaining evidence. At the Woolf Law Firm, we can help you determine whether evidence against you was obtained illegally. We will help you protect against the violation of your constitutional rights and ensure that evidence obtained through unlawful searches will not be admissible during your case. Contact our Connecticut criminal defense attorney at 860-290-8690 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Sources:

https://theintercept.com/2021/05/03/car-surveillance-berla-msab-cbp/

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/snitches-wheels-police-turn-car-data-destroy-suspects-alibis-n1251939

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