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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 NJ.com, "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."

Texter
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, NJ.com



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RE: Um, no.
By Reclaimer77 on 6/13/2013 1:03:28 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
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"


Exactly.

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.


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