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New Jersey Law Would Allow Police To Seize Cell Phones, Records After Car Crashes

Posted on Jun 12, 2013

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to enable police to search a driver’s cell phone immediately after a crash to see if the phone contributed to the accident.

State Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean County) recently introduced legislation that would allow police officers to automatically confiscate a cell phone if there is a suspicion that the driver was texting or talking on the phone prior to the accident, the Star Ledger reported Monday. The legislation would also increase penalties for texting while driving. The New Jersey bill, which is opposed by civil liberties activists, is the second attempt in the nation to give police this power.

Holzapfel’s legislation states that whenever a driver has been involved in an accident resulting in death, injury or property damage, a police officer may confiscate the driver’s telephone and review the phone’s history to see if the phone was being used at the time of the accident. The information obtained would then be used in the police report. Current laws require police to obtain a search warrant or the driver’s permission to review the phone’s history.

Some of New Jersey’s lawmakers have fought for years to make the state’s cell phone and driving laws among the strictest in the country. Despite the Garden State’s ban on texting and talking on a handheld device while driving, cell phone use while on the road is still a problem. The Newark Star-Ledger reported that in 2011, New Jersey had 1,840 handheld cell phone related crashes, leading to 807 injuries and six deaths. In a survey conducted last month by auto insurance group Plymouth Rock Assurance, 28 percent of New Jersey drivers polled admitted to reading or sending a text message while driving.

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