A New Jersey State Senator has proposed legislation that would allow police officers to confiscate drivers’ cellphones if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe that the driver was talking or texting at the time a wreck occurred.
The bill, from Senator James Holzapfel, would allow police to confiscate the mobile device belonging to the victim of a crash and thumb through its history in order to determine if the driver was guilty of distracted driving.
Bill S2783 states “whenever an operator of a motor vehicle has been involved in an accident resulting in death, bodily injury or property damage, a police officer may confiscate the operator’s hand-held wireless telephone if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the operator was operating a hand-held wireless telephone while driving.”
Some law enforcement officers in the State have applauded the legislative effort, calling it a deterrent to distracted driving.
“A lot of your accidents are happening due to distracted driving,” New Jersey Police officer Brian Metzler News 12. But, the officer added, police need a way to prove a driver was at fault.
Evidencing technology’s always-growing prevalence in American life, mobile phones have seemingly been a hot topic within the law enforcement community throughout the Nation over the past few years — and not just because they can cause distractions behind the wheel. Officers, unwilling to be taped by video phone-wielding civilians, have increasingly made it standard operating procedure to attempt to confiscate the cellphones of anyone they come into contact with.
Civil liberties advocates contend that an officer confiscating, or conducting warrantless searches of the contents of a civilian’s cellphone, directly violates the 4th Amendment.