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New law is meant to determine if you were talking/texting while driving, but represents a gross invasion of privacy

Expect this one to light up the appeals court if it's passed: New Jersey's state senate is considering a bill (No. 2783) that would allow a police officer to seize your cell phone and check your messages and phone calls to see if you were talking or texting when the accident occurred.

Back in 2007, New Jersey became one of the first states to ban texting while driving (P.L. 2007, c.198 [PDF]).  It currently is also working on a bill (No. 69 R1) that would increase the penalties of texting while driving by a couple hundred dollars, plus at three points to a drivers license for every offense after the second one.

But those efforts pale in comparison to the latest effort -- the cell phone seizure act – that grants bold new powers to the police.  Its synopsis unequivocally states:

Permits police officer to confiscate cell phones under certain circumstances; increases penalties for texting while driving.

Jim Hopzafel
Sen. Jim Hopzapfel (R-Ocean) sponsored the seizure bill. [Image Source: Facebook]

The provisions of exactly when an officer can seize your phone are pretty ambiguous.  The bill states a phone may be seized:

[If] the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the operator involved in the accident was operating a hand-held wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle [prior to the accident.]

State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean) sponsored the bill.  He tells, "Think about it: The chances of the cop witnessing the accident are slim to none."

Local police are already salivating at their new potential powers.  Comments Sgt. Ken Drost, who works in South Brunswick and is president of the Middlesex County Traffic Officers Association, "It’s one of the questions you ask them: ‘Were you on your cell phone at the time of the crash?’ And, of course, they say ‘no.'  Without the phone you really can’t tell."

Prepare to have your phone seized. [Image Source: Getty Images]

But the possibility of new powers of seizure for police is already drawing the ire of many groups.  

Steve Carrellas, New Jersey representative of the National Motorists Association, says that even with the Orwellian seizure you won't be able to really "tell" if the phone caused the crash.  He remarks, "Here’s the bottom line: If you went all through what the bill is supposedly allowing, you still can’t determine if the person with the phone actually had a distraction that contributed to a crash."

American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey suggests its crafting a "constitutional challenge" should the bill be enacted.  Local counsel Alexander Shalom comments, "This bill is problematic because it infringes on the privacy rights of citizens.  Our state and federal constitutions generally require probable cause before authorizing a search, particularly when it comes to areas that contain highly personal information such as cell phones."

A major question that the bill's proponents have not addressed is the question of what happens if you lock your phone.  If you safeguard your phone with a gesture or password, it's unclear whether an officer or court could punish you for failing to unlock.  This is a similar question to the issue of whether police have the right to demand forced decryption of suspects' hard drives.

Sources: NJ State Senate,

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Um, no.
By Motoman on 6/12/2013 4:43:42 PM , Rating: 5
You want to check whether or not a driver was texting on their phone at the time of a crash?

Fine. Issue a subpoena to the cellular provider and get the facts through existing, legal process.

Otherwise...suck it.

RE: Um, no.
By x10Unit1 on 6/12/2013 5:00:30 PM , Rating: 3
What?? But that would be difficult and require effort that no one wants to put in. Its just easier to assume everyone is guilty and invade their privacy to prove it.

RE: Um, no.
By Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer on 6/12/2013 9:36:53 PM , Rating: 2
It wouldn't require as much effort as breaking the encryption on my phone would...

RE: Um, no.
By spamreader1 on 6/12/2013 5:27:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, so lesson is to make sure you have some kind of password to make your phone a little safer, or at least to make them go through a more official process.

RE: Um, no.
By V-Money on 6/12/2013 6:29:53 PM , Rating: 5
Why do that, this is actually great news for people who text and drive. Just keep an extra phone in the car and if you get in an accident hand over the other phone. This way they won't bother checking your actual phone records and you just got away from them. Cheap little prepaid phones don't cost much, in fact they are much cheaper than 3 points on your license and a couple hundred dollar fine.

RE: Um, no.
By kleinma on 6/12/2013 6:36:37 PM , Rating: 3
Of course this bill is nonsense anyway. There is the matter of timing of when messages were sent and received versus the exact crash time. It would take a lot more investigative work than just looking at a time stamp on a message to be able to prove the person was actually in the middle of phone operation during the crash. The other thing to be considered would be what would it matter if someone is on the phone when they crash if they happen to be using speakerphone or hands free headsets? Those are both 100% legal for use while operating a vehicle, and most smart phones can also do text message dictation via Bluetooth or directly talking to the device. Then of course the OTHER thing is texting and talking are just 2 reasons people use their devices while driving. What about tweets, facebook updates, and similar things that anyone could be doing on their device while driving?

RE: Um, no.
By V-Money on 6/12/2013 6:48:24 PM , Rating: 2
Well of course it is, I just moved from Maryland just outside of DC(I made the huge mistake of trying to live in that area, that lasted a whole 7 months before I just left) and this is one of the biggest reasons I moved away from that area. People there are so ridiculous in the laws and regulations they come up with.

I remember I was going to get a concealed weapons license because I wanted to apply for a job that required one...I was told that I had to have the job first... ... ... I responded with how the F%@& am I supposed to get a job that requires one if I can't even apply for one until I get the job...sigh

Anyways, this bill is stupid and I am fairly certain that they know that, they are just trying to take away little rights one by one so that the precedence is set to take away any one that they choose. There are enough people over there willing to give them up easy enough, I especially love the "well I have nothing to hide" to which I reply "neither do I, so why should they be monitoring us in the first place"

RE: Um, no.
By BRB29 on 6/12/2013 7:40:40 PM , Rating: 1
Don't worry, it won't pass. If it does, I get the feeling someone will take this to the Supreme court and win. New Jersey is known for ridiculous laws. One of which is not letting you pump your own gas.

RE: Um, no.
By kleinma on 6/13/2013 12:34:45 AM , Rating: 2
While there may be a law about pumping your own gas, no one actually cares if you do. The gas station attendants welcome it, since they are mimimum wage immigrants most of the time and are busy talking on their cell phones (seriously for some reason gas station attendants in NJ seem to have an endless supply of people who want to be on the phone at all times, it is uncanny).

RE: Um, no.
By V-Money on 6/13/2013 2:19:07 PM , Rating: 5
While there may be a law about pumping your own gas, no one actually cares if you do.

I think that this is the biggest thing I hate about the liberal mindset (not saying that you are specifically, just using this as an example).

In the land of liberals if someone is doing something YOU don't like, say owning a gun or an assault rifle (and believe me, most of you have no idea what a real assault rifle is)you demand change and federal laws banning them and ridiculous measures and have no concern about rights or anything else. It doesn't affect you directly so you act as if everyone who thinks differently is a criminal.

When it's something that you think doesn't matter and it may directly affect you (say smoking marijuana) you simply ignore the laws, call them stupid and outdated, and expect everyone to respect your decision to blatantly break the laws while pretending that you are making a difference...oh, and of course you aren't a criminal.

My point being, laws are exactly that...laws. If you have a law it should be enforced, if its a stupid law then change the law. Just because no one follows a law doesn't mean its okay to just have them, because as I said before Laws and regulations set precedence, by allowing stupid laws, no matter how trivial they may be, you are setting up precedence for newer, more restrictive laws.

RE: Um, no.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2013 1:03:28 AM , Rating: 3
Anyways, this bill is stupid and I am fairly certain that they know that, they are just trying to take away little rights one by one so that the precedence is set to take away any one that they choose. There are enough people over there willing to give them up easy enough, I especially love the "well I have nothing to hide" to which I reply "neither do I, so why should they be monitoring us in the first place"


I know when people hear me and others use the word "fascism" they roll their eyes and think "oh here we go again with the crazies". But they don't understand. They think you can't have fascism without tanks rolling down your street, or a dictator in power.

Or worst, they adhere to some textbook definition of the word "fascism" and argue that point instead. However, it should be noted that an all-encompassing definition of a complex system can not be simply stated. Such simple definitions undoubtedly fail in time.

Throughout history there have basically been three main ways a society is brought to fascism:

1. Revolutions
2. Elections
3. Bureaucracy

The third one is what I refer to, and I think most Conservatives/Libertarians refer to, when we speak of fascism in America.

It's not the military taking over or a bloody revolution, it's the simple inevitable rubber-stamping of fascism by the bureaucracy. Whether it be State, Local, or Federal. Or combinations of. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, lots of little infringements and quite a few big ones on our Constitutionally guaranteed protections have been made into law by a laundry list of committees, legislatures, Congress and Executive Orders. Moving us slowly but surely into a fascist state.

The Supreme Court can only rule on a tiny minority of these. And each year more and more laws are added on top of the ones we have! When the Constitution is no longer the benchmark of what is and isn't a legal law, and it hasn't been for some time, pretty much anything can be made "legal".

RE: Um, no.
By PaFromFL on 6/13/2013 8:06:54 AM , Rating: 2
After the Patriot Act, officially sanctioned torture, warrantless wiretapping, and drone assassinations without due process, it is pretty clear we're becoming a police state. It didn't happen all at once, so no one really noticed because we knew it couldn't happen here. If another country, say Germany, exhibited these same symptoms, we would have no trouble calling them fascists, and would begin applying trade sanctions.

RE: Um, no.
By Adonlude on 6/14/2013 5:18:31 PM , Rating: 2
The supreme court is part of the problem! The Constitution was written in very clear and straightforward speech yet SCOTUS "interprets" it out of existance with ease.

They authorized DUI checkpoints even though its a clear violation of the 4th. They trashed the 2nd by authorizing infringement of the right to bear arms in the Heller decission. And many more.

RE: Um, no.
By Xplorer4x4 on 6/13/2013 3:35:39 PM , Rating: 2
The other thing to be considered would be what would it matter if someone is on the phone when they crash if they happen to be using speakerphone or hands free headsets?

Actually I just saw a new study on NBC Nightly News last night(Wednesday June 12) that shows drivers are just as distracted using hands free devices as they are using hands on. While it may enable you to have both hands on the wheel, how many people actually use both hands at all times? The point of the study is your just as distracted mentally according to your brain activity. Enough of these studies and NJ, CA, and other states might ban hands free communication. Heck they could even try to force the auto industry to only allow you to use your in dash computer system when parked.

RE: Um, no.
By spread on 6/12/2013 6:32:39 PM , Rating: 4
Fine. Issue a subpoena to the cellular provider and get the facts

If they ask really nice the NSA would tell them everything including what you had for breakfast.

RE: Um, no.
By lagomorpha on 6/13/2013 8:52:25 AM , Rating: 2
Nah. The local police would just inform you you're under arrest, refuse to tell you what you're being charged with, and confiscate your breakfast.

RE: Um, no.
By lagomorpha on 6/13/2013 11:58:35 AM , Rating: 2
Really? Nobody? Kafka? I bet if I made a Metamorphosis reference people would get it.

RE: Um, no.
By StormyKnight on 6/12/2013 7:59:41 PM , Rating: 2
They don't even have to do that. They can just access the government records since all our phone records go into their hands anyway. No need for subpoenas or any other legal process.

RE: Um, no.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/12/2013 11:14:10 PM , Rating: 3
Fuckin' fascists...

RE: Um, no.
By AMDftw on 6/13/2013 9:11:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yep, so then just have the security lock or a password on your phone for now on. Then when they ask for you to unlock it, "how about noooo..."

RE: Um, no.
By danjw1 on 6/13/2013 9:51:00 AM , Rating: 2
But law enforcement officers are too lazy. They don't want to have to bother with those silly warrants or subpoenas. Nope, just pass a law that clearly violates the 4th amendment and hope no one bothers to challenge it.

RE: Um, no.
By Dr of crap on 6/13/2013 12:40:17 PM , Rating: 2
So your OK with them having you do the drunk tests, draw blood if needed, but search your cell phone is where you draw the line???

RE: Um, no.
By Xplorer4x4 on 6/13/2013 3:47:07 PM , Rating: 2
The difference is they only do this if they have reasonable cause/suspicion. From the sounds of the article, that does not apply here.

RE: Um, no.
By Wolfpup on 6/13/2013 12:53:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, great point. There's already a way to do this that requires a court order (or should) and is less of an invasion of privacy.

Nothing should be able to allow invasions of privacy without a court order, at least so there's SOME level of checks and balances.

RE: Um, no.
By unimatrix725 on 6/15/2013 2:15:36 AM , Rating: 1
Im sorry but there are too many dumb fucks on phones in Virginia. I am surprised our communist wealth has not already done this. With a little tweaking I am all for it! I cannot count the number of times people have ran over things, Animals, off the road, brakex excessively without need, sped and other things. I say take their damn license if they cause an accident while texting or talking. Add healthy amount of jail time too. Then after a few years make them have a doodad like the drunks. Just make it jam all signals until car is shut off!

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