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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 Stuka on 6/13/2013 2:17:24 AM , Rating: 2
They already came up with all the traffic laws we need decades ago. They wrote a little book about it and made it available at your local DMV. Whether they were texting is irrelevant. There are two dented cars and skid marks, all the info you need is right there. But, for whatever reason, they refuse to increase the penalties for causing an accident. In Arizona it is a worse crime to violate the carpool lane than to ram into the back of another car. Instead, they try to layer on these crime-du-jours. Case in point: You can read a map and crash into someone and it's "failure to control vehicle", a glorified speeding ticket, 2pts; but send a text 30 secs before a hitting someone, and now you can add "texting while driving" to the charges.

Keep in mind, texting does not equal crash. I'm sure there are numerous scenarios where a person could be wrongfully cited as "at fault" just 'cos of a text, when it was the other person who caused it. I bet you most cops are gonna waive the "failure to yield" on Person A, when Person B sent a text 20secs before impact.

What if I pull over to send a text and then someone side swipes me? Is the cop gonna be able to ascertain that I was not in motion when that message was sent, when the other driver swears I pulled in front of him??? Remember the cops have no idea when the crash actually happened. It could be as much as an hour before they get there. Then they have only your word on when it actually happened.

This crap is just retarded.

By BRB29 on 6/13/2013 7:50:28 AM , Rating: 2
What if I pull over to send a text and then someone side swipes me? Is the cop gonna be able to ascertain that I was not in motion when that message was sent, when the other driver swears I pulled in front of him?

Unless you pull over in a road lane, I don't see why a cop can't tell who hits who. If you did stop in the middle of the street then it's your fault regardless of if you texted or not. However, since rear ending automatically makes that person at fault 99% of the time, you can probably get away with it if you claim you were waiting to turn.

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