CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Barrett on Autonomous Vehicles and the Automobile Exception to the Warrant Requirement

Lindsey Anne Morgan Barrett (Georgetown University, Law Center, Students) has posted Herbie Fully Downloaded: Data-Driven Vehicles and the Automobile Exception (Georgetown Law Journal, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception generally allows vehicles to be searched without a warrant. This lessened degree of protection is based partially on the need to afford law enforcement officials discretion when a suspect, evidence, or contraband is found in a mobile entity. It is also based on the diminished expectation of privacy in vehicles, due to the pervasive regulation and use of the public roadways. While an autonomous vehicle would seem to undermine the mobility rationale for automobile exception, it is in fact the information such vehicles collect about their drivers that merits a new approach to established doctrine to ensure that basic Fourth Amendment privacy protections remain in full force. This Note argues that while the mobility analysis of the automobile exception does not compel a new approach to Fourth Amendment analysis for autonomous vehicles, the information they collect represents such a significant privacy interest that law enforcement officials should be required to obtain a warrant before accessing the data, a result supported by analysis in Riley v. California, and United States v. Jones.

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