N.J. Bill Would Allow Cellphone Searches After Wrecks

June 17, 2013 – In The News
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Scott Vernick was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer article “N.J. Bill Would Allow Cellphone Searches After Wrecks.” While the full text can be found in the June 17, 2013 issue of The Philadelphia Inquirer, a synopsis is noted below.

In an effort to eliminate cellphone use while driving, State Sen. Jim Holzapfel has introduced legislation that would give police the right to confiscate cellphones at the scene of an auto accident should they have reasonable suspicion that talking or texting played a role in the incident.

According to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety there were 1,840 cellphone-related crashes in 2011. While Holzapfel doesn’t expect much progress on the legislation to be made until after Senate and Assembly elections in November, he urges that it is time to actively work on changing driver behavior.

Scott Vernick said proposals such as Holzapfel's likely breach the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

"The question is, can you get it [the cellphone] without a warrant," Vernick said. "I am pretty sure it is not constitutional. I think we have a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures."

Holzapfel contests that reviewing cell phone logs at the time of an accident is no different than collecting such things as odometer readings, or, in the case of drunken driving, requiring a driver to undergo a Breathalyzer test.