UPDATE (10/21/2019) Georgia Supreme Court overrules Georgia Court of Appeals** Mobley v. State, S18G1546 The Georgia Supreme Court overruled the admissibility of the data from the airbag control module which showed that Mobley's Dodge Charger was traveling at nearly 100 MPH before the crash where his vehicle collided with another vehicle killing both of its occupants. The Supreme Court held that the officer's warrantless search of the data in the module was a search for purposes of the 4th Amendment and that there was no valid exception to allow admissibility of the data after the warrantless search. The Court held that the data was not admissible under the doctrine of inevitable discovery because the State failed to show that the officers were actively pursuing a warrant at the time the search was conducted. The officers merely searched the data in the module without a warrant and then went and applied for a warrant later. The Supreme Court held that the fact that the State sought a warrant after the fact would vitiate the warrant requirements. The trial court should have suppressed the evidence from the airbag control module at the pre-trial motion to suppress.
Many newer vehicles have an Airbag Control Module (ACM) that records certain facts about the vehicle before and during a crash. On June 27, 2018, The Georgia Court of Appeals heard a case in which the driver had moved the trial court by a motion to suppress, the introduction of evidence that he was traveling at 97 MPH approximately 5 seconds before a crash that killed two people in separate vehicle.
The officers in this case testified that the ACM records certain aspects of the vehicle at or immediately preceding airbag deployment, including speed, engine speed, brake status, throttle position, engine revolutions, driver's seat belt status and brake switch status, as well as time from maximum deceleration to impact, time from vehicle impact to airbag deployment, and diagnostic information on the vehicle's systems.
The evidence had been obtained by the State before an application for a search warrant was granted to retrieve the data from the ACM. The search warrant was granted the day after the evidence had already been retrieved from the ACM and the Court of Appeals held that there was no error by the trial court in denying the defendant's motion to suppress because there was probable cause to retrieve the data from the ACM and that the data would have been inevitably discovered.
It is important to remember that your car or truck may be recording what is happening in your vehicle and that may be used against you in a criminal case. This was a case of first impression for the Court of Appeals. You can read the entire case here Mobley v. State, 816 S.E.2d 769 (2018)
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