CrimProf Blog

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Woods on Autonomous Vehicles and Police De-Escalation

Jordan Blair Woods (University of Arkansas - School of Law) has posted Autonomous Vehicles and Police De-Escalation (114 Northwestern University Law Review Online, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Several experts predict that autonomous vehicles will become mainstream in the next few decades. Although autonomous vehicles will have massive implications for law enforcement, the technology has received little to no attention in criminal procedure and policing scholarship. This Essay introduces a new vector into the nascent law and policy discourse on autonomous vehicles and policing — de-escalation and officer safety. Although largely overlooked in this discourse, officer safety is a crucial topic to consider given its powerful role in shaping officer training, departmental policies, and Fourth Amendment law.

This Essay argues that autonomous vehicles and their included technologies (for instance, sensory technology, real-time HD mapping, and network connectivity systems) have promise to decrease possibilities for escalation during vehicle stops in at least five ways: (1) vehicles will be programmed to follow traffic rules, making traffic stops much less common; (2) sensory technology will prevent vehicles from hitting other vehicles or persons, decreasing motor vehicle assaults against officers; (3) driver’s license requirements could be eliminated, taking the enforcement of driver’s license laws out of the hands of police; (4) DUI law reforms could abolish the need for officers to conduct DUI stops, investigations, or arrests and (5) sensory technology in vehicles will reduce investigations associated with hit-and-run offenses, and separately, will simplify accident investigations overall. This Essay explores how these potential changes have vast implications for Fourth Amendment law, officer training, and law enforcement policy on motor vehicle stops.

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