Legislators in New Jersey are considering allowing police officers to search cellphones after crashes.
License, registration and cell phone, please.
Police officers across New Jersey could be saying that to motorists at the scenes of car crashes if new legislation introduced in the state Senate becomes law.
The measure would allow cops — without a warrant — to thumb through a cell phone to determine if a driver was talking or texting when an accident occurred. It requires officers to have "reasonable grounds" to believe the law was broken.
Supporters say it could be an important tool for cops investigating crashes in a state where distracted driving causes lots of accidents and driving while using hand-held cell phones is illegal.
Opponents say it could touch off a contentious legal debate over whether giving officers such access violates a motorist's right to privacy or protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
As the NSA revelations demonstrate, records of when texts are sent and phone calls are placed are available to law enforcement from phone companies. Supporters of the new search power don't explain why police can't seek those records with a warrant while investigating crashes. There were six fatalities in cellphone-related crashes in New Jersey in 2011 according to government statistics, out of a total fatality count of 627.