A new law would give New Jersey police officers investigating car crashes the right to look at drivers’ cell phones without a warrant to see if the motorist was talking or texting when the collision occurred.
The wording of the law, sponsored by State Senator James Holzapfel, says police can look at the phone if they have “reasonable grounds” to believe a driver was using it at the time of the accident. The state Division of Highway Traffic Safety estimates that in 2011 there were 1,840 handheld cell phone-related crashes statewide that caused 807 injuries and six deaths.
“To me, is it any different from an open bottle of liquor?” Holzapfel told reporters, saying it was unlikely that a police officer would catch a driver using a cell phone unless they saw the accident firsthand, a passenger implicated them, or they found the driver unconscious with the phone in his or her hand.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union worried the new law would be an invasion of privacy or a violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.