On January 25, 2007 the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit granted a habeas corpus petition relying, in part, upon calculations performed by popular driving direction website Mapquest to determine that the petitioner’s trial counsel had not properly explored petitioner’s alibi before or during his trial on charges of murder and attempted murder. Raygoza v. Hulick, ___ F.3d ___, 2007 WL 184635 (7th Cir. 2007). The Court used Mapquest to determine the distance and travel time between the crime scene and a party petitioner had attended near the time of the crime.
It’s not the first time that Mapquest has been cited as authority in a case. A number of state and federal courts have relied upon Mapquest to determine the distance or travel time between two points. Mapquest has been cited in dozens of reported decisions, including rulings on:
- motions to change venue in civil cases, where the convenience of the forum to parties and potential witnesses was an issue. Smith v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 169 Md. App. 286, 292, 900 A.2d 301, 305 (2006); Hoskin v. Un. Pacific Railroad Co., 365 Ill. App.3d 1021, 1025, 851 N.E.2d 646, 650 (2006)
- motions to transfer a federal criminal case to another district. United States v. Anderson, 2000 WL 34237505, *7 (W.D. Wis. 2000); United States v. Ferguson, 432 F.Supp.2d 559, 563 n. 5 (E.D. Va. 2006)
- a motion to dismiss, in which the court took judicial notice of the driving distance calculated by Mapquest. Untracht v. Fikri, 454 F.Supp.2d 289, 302 (W.D. Pa. 2006) (citing Gordon v. Lewistown, 272 F.Supp.2d 393, 429 n. 34 (M.D. Pa. 2003))
However, at least one court has held that courts should not take judicial notice of Mapquest results because the website is not sufficiently accurate. Commonwealth v. Brown, 839 A.2d 433, 436-37 (Pa. Super. 2003) ("An internet site determining distances does not have the same inherent accuracy as do professionally accepted medical dictionaries, or encyclopedias, or other matters of common knowledge within the community. The, we hold that the trial court abused its discretion in taking judicial notice of a MapQuest distance determination . . . .")
Though trial counsel may not be able to count on Mapquest to produce admissible evidence where a timely objection is raised, unchallenged Mapquest results are routinely considered by courts in determining distance or travel time between two points.
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