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New York lawmakers seek mandatory phone scans after accident

When a police officer stops a driver, the driver is likely used to the line of questioning that follows - do they understand why they were stopped? In most cases, a driver understands the traffic violation the officer might have observed. However, this is not always clear to a driver, especially when they believe they were driving safely and following the rules of the road. In contrast, following an automobile accident most drivers are not familiar with the line of questioning they will face because it is likely their first accident and they are dealing with the emotional aftermath of the crash. Nonetheless, police officers will likely ask several questions and even request to search the driver and even their vehicle. In these matters, drivers should understand their rights.

According to recent reports, New York lawmakers are seeking to address the problems arising from texting while driving by forcing drivers to hand over their phone to police officers following a car accident. The purpose behind this proposed bill is to give police the authority to plug a device into a driver's phone in order to determine if a driver was texting or calling at the time of a crash.

Much like officers can use a breathalyzer to determine if a driver was drinking and driving, the bill known as "Evan's Law" seeks to determine if a driver was texting and driving in the event of an accident. While there are numerous campaigns in New York and other states across the nation to curb texting and driving, there are some concerns regarding the bill, including privacy issues and the requirement for a search warrant.

The constitutionality of this bill is still being debated. However, it was claimed that this proposed device would only allow authorities to see a time log and not the content of messages or calls made on a person's cell phone. Much like other searches conducted after a traffic stop or automobile accident, these searches could result in evidence being uncovered that cause a driver to face traffic violations or even serious charges such as a misdemeanor.

However, if a search is unlawfully conducted, drivers could use that to dismiss evidence. This could ultimately allow them to reduce or dismiss the charges against them, helping them avoid serious or harsh penalties.

Source: Money.cnn.com, "New York drivers might get mandatory 'textalyzer' phone scans," Jose Pagliery, April 14, 2016

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