New Jersey Laws and Police Seizure of Cell Phones

Proposed New Jersey Law Would Let Police Seize Cell Phones after Car Accidents

A new law proposed by New Jersey State Senator James Holzapfel of District 10 (Ocean) would allow police to seize and inspect a driver’s cell phone after an accident.

The officer would be able to confiscate a phone if he or she had “reasonable grounds” to believe that the driver was talking or texting on the phone at the time of the accident.

The phone would be returned to the owner after being checked.

The proposed statute reads:

Whenever an operator of a motor vehicle has been involved in an accident resulting in death, bodily injury, or property damage, a police officer who reports to the scene of the accident may confiscate the operator’s hand-held wireless telephone if, after considering the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, 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 in violation of [New Jersey law].

The proposed statue also increases penalties for using a cell phone while driving. Currently, the penalty for any type of cell phone use is $100.The penalty for sending a text message would be increased to $300, and a person involved in an accident while violating the statute would lose his or her license for three months.

The law is intended to reduce distracted driving since cellphones are a common source of distraction. Without checking the phone (or the driver’s phone records) it’s difficult for a police officer who didn’t actually see the driver on the phone to prove the driver was violating New Jersey law by using the phone.

According to the Secretary of the US Transportation Department, 3,000 people were killed and 387,000 injured in 2011 due to distracted driving.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has opposed the new phone search law, saying that the state and federal constitutions require probable cause before a search is authorized.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident, contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C.