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Will Police in NJ Be Permitted to Inspect Cell Phone Contents At Accident Scenes?

Will Police in NJ Be Permitted to Inspect Cell Phone Contents At Accident Scenes?

If a newly introduced bill relating to NJ motor vehicle safety is passed, police officers will be able to confiscate cell phones under certain circumstances relating to auto accidents in order to assess motor vehicle penalties. The bill also increases penalties for texting while driving. The bill (S-2783) was introduced May 20, 2013 by Senator James W. Holzapfel (D-Ocean). As introduced, the bill permits any police officer coming to the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in death, bodily injury, or property damage to confiscate the driver’s cell phone if the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver was using the cell phone while driving. The bill includes that the officer may review the cell phone’s CALL history, however, the pertinent statute Section 39:4-97.3 of the NJ Motor Vehicle Code defines “Use” of a cell phone as including, “but not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging, or sending an electronic. This means police will be reading text messages and emails, viewing installed applications (“aps”) on the phone, memos and anything else they wish to view. This will permit the police the right to trounce citizen’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure each time a motor vehicle accident occurs. The bill requires no warrant showing probable cause and merely permits police to make a judgment call as to whether the driver was “operating” a cell phone as well as whether a hands-free device or feature was in use at the time of the accident. Even in the event police determine there was no use of the cell phone, there is nothing in the bill limiting their use of any information obtained from the phone for other purposes such as criminal complaints against the driver. Also, it can be assumed the phones of any passengers in the vehicle will also be searched as police claim that a witness saw the driver pass the phone to a passenger immediately following the accident. Given the use of passwords, swipe patterns, voice and face recognition software and other means of protecting the information on personal cell phones, information contained in cell phones is considered private and falls within the expectation of privacy contemplated under the Fourth Amendment. Other penalties include a fine of $100 for calls, $300 for texts, 2 points and suspension of driving privileges for 3 months. If you have been charged with use of a cell phone while driving or face criminal charges as a result of unreasonable search and seizure in NJ, you should immediately obtain an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. For more information on protecting your rights if charged with motor vehicle offenses or other crimes in NJ visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.

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