NJ Police to Search Cell Phones After Car Crash?

June 11, 2013 – In The News
The Willis Report

Scott Vernick appeared on Fox Business Network’s The Willis Report to discuss the controversy surrounding proposed legislation in New Jersey that would give police officers the right to confiscate cellphones without a warrant at the site of a car accident.

While the proposal is designed to cut down on distracted driving, it comes on the heels of the recent revelations about government monitoring of phone calls and online activities. At issue in the New Jersey legislation is not only an individual’s right to privacy but also a question of Fourth Amendment rights, which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures and require warrants to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

“There is no evidence that a crime has been committed just because you’ve been in a car accident,” noted Vernick. “And just because you’ve been in a car accident doesn’t mean you give up your Fourth Amendment rights.”

Police are trained to thoroughly investigate accident scenes and have many tools at their disposal to help ascertain whether there’s a potential criminal aspect to an accident, Vernick continued. “They need to establish there is probable cause of criminal negligence and then take the next step – get a subpoena in order to get the cellphone,” he said.

View video.