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NJ lawmakers consider allowing phone searches after crashes

Published On: Jun 11 2013 08:00:00 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 12 2013 06:06:01 AM EDT

NJ cell phone search proposal

Your cell phone contains some of your most private information, but if you get into an accident in New Jersey, cops may soon be able to search your phone without a warrant.

It may be illegal, but it's easy to spot distracted drivers talking or texting while driving.

"It's a disaster," said Bob Startzel of Milford, N.J.


"They're distracted and they're driving all over the road," added Jill O'Brien of Bushkill, Pa.

Those drivers also caused more than 1,800 accidents in New Jersey in 2011.

"Swerving around in the road, causing all kinds of bad stuff to happen," said Cheryl Urban of Bethlehem, Pa.

For police, checking to see if a driver was texting after an accident is a time-consuming process. They have to get a search warrant.

But in the Garden State, that could soon change. A state senator wants to give officers the right to search your cell phone -- without a warrant -- immediately after a crash.

The proposal would also affect out-of-state drivers from Pennsylvania passing through New Jersey.

"It's a good idea," said Urban. "Take it away."

But many drivers, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, are already calling the proposal an invasion of privacy.

The ACLU's Alex Shalom told the Star-Ledger: "Our state and federal constitutions generally require probable cause before authorizing a search, particularly when it comes to areas that contain highly personal information such as cellphones."

Some motorists agreed.

"To open it up and examine your log is like opening up your glove compartment without your permission," said Startzel.

"That seems a little invasive," added O'Brien. "It just seems like they should have a warrant, or they should have permission to do that."

If this law passes, it would be the first in the nation.

Would it withstand a legal challenge? Legal experts appear divided at this point.