In DUI, Police Can Download Car's Computer to Show Speed
The CHP reported to the scene and tested Diaz’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”). The Preliminary Alcohol Screening (“PAS”) device measured her BAC at 0.194 %, 0.154 % and 0.160 %. According to the CHP officer, Diaz smelled of alcohol and failed the roadside field sobriety tests (“FST’s”). The reporting officer also described Diaz as having slurred speech and blood shot eyes. At the hospital, her blood was drawn and tested for her BAC, measuring 0.20%.Brief Synopsis: In a DUI investigation, police can download information from a suspect vehicle’s sensing diagnostic module (SDM), or car-computer, to show her speed on a public highway without a warrant because a driver does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s speed on a public highway.
Fourteen months after the accident, felony second degree murder charges were filed against Diaz. Diaz had fled to Mexico, but she was located there and extradited back to the United States to face charges.
The jury found Diaz guilty of involuntary manslaughter (Penal Code § 192(b)) as a lesser included offense to the charge of murder and also guilty of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated (Penal Code § 191.5(a)).
The trial court sentenced Diaz to ten years in state prison. During trial, Diaz had filed a motion to suppress evidence under Penal Code § 1538.5 from the seizure of her vehicle’s SDM. The Riverside County judge denied the motion and admitted the evidence, which included her speed just before impact, which was told to the jury.
Diaz appealed her conviction, arguing that the trial judge made a mistake by not suppressing such evidence as gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Fourth Appellate District, in People v. Elva Diaz (2013 DJDAR 1728), began its review of the lower court’s ruling by noting that no California Court has ever considered this issue before concerning the seizure of SDM information without a warrant.
The appellate court began its analysis by stating it must accept the trial court’s express and implied factual findings when they are supported by substantial evidence. However, as an appellate court, it then independently decides, under the facts, whether the search and seizure was reasonable.
Here, in Diaz’s case, the court commented that Diaz could have no expectation of privacy in information about her speed on a public highway. Moreover, the court noted, she probably did not even know her car carried an SDM, as it sits under her driver’s seat and is accessible only when one cuts the carpet there. Therefore, she could not have exhibited an expectation of privacy in something she did not know even existed.
Consequently, the appellate court denied Diaz’s appeal and affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
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