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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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RE: More crap articles from Jason Mick
By wookie1 on 6/12/2013 6:41:18 PM , Rating: 1
Given the very low percentage of wrecks that is caused by cell phone distraction vs all of the other distractions, this seems like a great deal of extra invasiveness to provide very little additional safety. This won't help stop people from talking to others in the car, drinking coffee or eating breakfast, shaving, daydreaming (#1 cause of distraction accidents), etc.

Second point: "Its your cell phone, not your underwear draw. They dont search your internet history, pictures, or contacts." How do you know? Once they're in your phone, they may decide that there are all sorts of other things they should look for. I imagine that they would scan your contacts to see if you have any association with known criminals/terrorists, check your text messages to see if you're doing anything that raises concern, go through your e-mails, and absolutely check your browsing history! It's just too juicy a target not to go through, since it's already right there for them. Police have already done these sorts of things in other cases. They'll probably need to hang on to your phone for some time to go through it all, hope you don't need it for anything. Thank you for your cooperation, citizen!

RE: More crap articles from Jason Mick
By Creig on 6/12/2013 7:11:20 PM , Rating: 3
Given the very low percentage of wrecks that is caused by cell phone distraction vs all of the other distractions, this seems like a great deal of extra invasiveness to provide very little additional safety.

The National Safety Council estimates that 28 percent of all crashes each year involve cell phone use, resulting in 1.6 million crashes nationally.

Over 1/4 of all crashes each year in the United States involves a cell phone. I don't know about you, but that doesn't qualify as "very low percentage" to me.


By shmmy on 6/12/2013 7:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
Nice! but math does not always work with these people. ;)

RE: More crap articles from Jason Mick
By Solandri on 6/12/2013 11:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a bit skeptical of those estimates. Here are the traffic accident fatality rates by year:

There's been a pretty steady decline in fatality rates since 1970. If cell phone use had caused a significant increase in crashes, you'd expect the fatality rate to spike around 2000 when cell phones really took off in popularity.

There isn't one. The drop in rate starts slowing down around 1990 which is a bit suspicious. But there were too few people using cellphones back then for that to have been the cause.

If you project a long-term trendline from 1970-1990, the 1990-2010 trend is above that, but the big dip in 2010/2011 puts it back on that trendline. So if cell phones are causing more accidents, it's only because they're replacing other behaviors which were equally as likely to cause an accident.

By BRB29 on 6/13/2013 12:19:30 AM , Rating: 2
That's because the major push in vehicle safety started since the 70s

In 1974, GM offered driver and passenger airbags as optional equipment on large Cadillacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles.[40]
In 1979 NHTSA began crash-testing popular cars and publishing the results, to inform consumers and encourage manufacturers to improve the safety of their vehicles. Initially, the US NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) crash tests examined compliance with the occupant-protection provisions of FMVSS 208. Over the subsequent years, this NHTSA program was gradually expanded in scope. In 1997, the European European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) was established to test new vehicles' safety performance and publish the results for vehicle shoppers' information.[41] The NHTSA crash tests are presently operated and published as the U.S. branch of the international NCAP programme.[42]
In 1984 New York State passed the first US law requiring seat belt use in passenger cars. Seat belt laws have since been adopted by all 50 states, except for New Hampshire.[43] and NHTSA estimates increased seat belt use as a result save 10,000 per year in the USA.[44]
In 1986 the central 3rd brake light was mandated in North America with most of the world following with similar standards in automotive lighting.
In 1995 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began frontal offset crash tests.[citation needed]
In 1997 EuroNCAP was founded.
In 2003 the IIHS began conducting side impact crash tests.
In 2004 NHTSA released new tests designed to test the rollover risk of new cars and SUVs. Only the Mazda RX-8 got a 5-star rating.[citation needed]
In 2009 Citro├źn became the first manufacturer to feature "Snowmotion", an Intelligent Anti Skid system developed in conjunction with Bosch, which gives drivers a level of control in extreme ice or snow conditions similar to a 4x4[45]
In 2009 NHTSA upgraded its roof-crush standard for vehicles weighing 6000 pounds or less. The new standard increased the crush load requirement from 1.5 to 3 times the vehicle's curb weight.[46][47]

Yes cell phones is just one of the problems. During the 90s the cool thing was the have a retarded sound systems with dubs blasting Big Tymers and racing down the street. Now it's smartphones, texting and facebook. While they may replace one bad habit with another, if we don't do anything then it could mean they'll blast music, race, text, and facebook all at the same time. We need to prevent as many idiot drivers as possible. They may not be murderers but if they killed someone by accident then it's still a dead innocent person.

I've seen so many paralyzed or dead people because of drunk drivers. Playing with your phone is almost just as bad. I used to just have to dodge drunk drivers at night. Now I have to dodge people on their phone during the day too.

RE: More crap articles from Jason Mick
By shmmy on 6/12/2013 7:14:30 PM , Rating: 2
You imagine. Exactly... I like to stick with reality. :)

In reality this is simply a law to check if a person of concern was talking, or texting, during the time of an accident. You know, BREAKING THE LAW.

RE: More crap articles from Jason Mick
By Shadowself on 6/12/2013 7:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
Ah yes, to hell with the Fifth Amendment. Require me to hand over my personal property without due process (i.e., getting a warrant) so that I can incriminate myself about breaking the law. Virtually 100% of the time the officer did not see me on the phone. Hell, in a high percentage of the time the person driving the other care didn't see me on the phone either! So just demand that I hand over my cell phone and provide what could appear to be (but might not really be, see my other posts) self incriminating evidence which will be utilized at the officers sole discretion!

Hell, you're not officially, legally at fault for the accident until you either admit that it was your fault or the courts say it was your fault. How is handing over your cell phone so the officer can view your calling/texting history not a forced admission of guilt (assuming you were on a call)?

By BRB29 on 6/13/2013 12:26:07 AM , Rating: 2
I don't agree with this potential law. It's dumb anyways because I can easily delete my text or call history in seconds.

I don't see why they need to do this. If someone is drifting all over the place because they're distracted then just give them a damn ticket for driving while distracted or wreckless driving. They can explain it in court with the judge.

If you hurt someone, then I hope you turn yourself in and be honest. If you did lie, it wouldn't make that much of a difference because that's trivial compared to what you have to deal with. You'll probably still get charged with other things anyways. I'm sure the judge can probably figure out if you're lying or not.

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