The recent Florida case of Peterson v. State decided on January 3, 2014 by the Second District Court of Appeals shows how a vehicle's air bag control system report can be used against a defendant in a criminal case that arises out of the act of driving an automobile.
In Peterson, the defendant was charged with, and subsequently convicted of, leaving the scene of a crash involving death, vehicular homicide, and driving while license is suspended or revoked. In the criminal trial, the State introduced the airbag control system report which was a computer generated report that indicated information like what the speed of the car was immediately prior to the crash and when the brakes were first applied.
The defendant objected claiming that the report was testimonial in nature and therefore its admission violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This clause provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused has the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him or her. The defendant argued that admitting the report into evidence violated his right to confront the computer that generated it.
The Florida Second District Court of Appeals disagreed and instead ruled that the airbag control system report was not testimonial in nature and merely contained objective data about the car seconds before the crash and did not per se suggest that the defendant had committed a crime. As such, the Confrontation Clause was not invoked and the report was properly admitted into evidence.