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A breathalizer for texting while driving?

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Apr 28, 2017

According to a recent article appearing in the Albany Times Union, New York State lawmakers are considering legislation which would allow emerging technology to scan the cell phones of drivers at the scene of accidents.  

The technology, which is in the nascent stage, would permit authorities to determine whether a driver was texting, emailing or otherwise using their cell phone at the time of an accident.  As we've discussed many times before, distracted driving is becoming an increasingly severe problem, and the emerging technology would theoretically allow police to better identify the cause of accidents. 

There are potential issues, of course.  It appears that the legislation being considered would allow the police to obtain the information from an individual's cell phone without a warrant.  This would, almost certainly, be challenged by criminal defense lawyers (and, likely, the ACLU among others) as a violation of an individual's Fourth Amendment right against warrantless search and seizure.  

Privacy advocates also argue that the information - whether an individual was using a cell phone at the time of an accident - is available through cell phone records, which may be obtained through a validly issued subpoena.  This is, of course, easier said than done, and there is clearly a benefit to being able to obtain this information at the scene of an accident.  The issue, however, is the balancing act between protecting public safety and protecting personal privacy from governmental intrusion.  This is not an easy issue, particularly where distracted driving is becoming more of a problem every day.  

If you have questions about distracted driving accidents contact us today.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.

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