Proposed NJ Bill Would Permit Police Cell Phone Search but May Help Protect Victim Rights in Car Accidents
Distracted driving in the United States injured an estimated 387,000 people in 2011 and killed 3,000 more. An increasing number of distractions each year involve the use of cell phones. No wonder, then, the New Jersey Senate wants to take action to collect evidence to prove the connection between cell phone usage and accidents.
Introduced in May 2013, the proposed legislation under Senate Bill 2783 would apply when a motor vehicle operator is involved in an accident resulting in death, bodily injury, or property damage. If the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the driver violated the law by using a hand-held cell phone, he or she can confiscate the phone to review the call history data. If the data shows the driver violated the ban on hand-held cell phone usage while driving, the information is recorded in the police report, potentially subjecting the violator to additional fines and motor vehicle penalty points.
Collecting data at the accident scene would present certain clear advantages, such as the following:
- Protecting valuable evidence at the scene before it can be deleted
- Assisting victims of auto accidents who need to prove liability to pursue damages for their injuries
- Helping discourage drivers from flouting the New Jersey cell phone laws
- Providing more accurate estimates of the number of accidents caused by the use of technology while driving
Still, the proposed law is currently subject to much debate. Even if signed into law, it is likely to face constitutional challenges on the grounds that it violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects rights against illegal search and seizure. Certainly, cell phone evidence would be invaluable in helping injured accident victims develop compelling cases. However, experienced NJ auto accident attorneys have the skills and resources to thoroughly investigate the details behind crashes and their causes. Even without the new law, their support can go a long way toward helping their clients pursue the full compensation they deserve.