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jca's avatar

Are you in favor of law enforcement being able to obtain text and stroke history from cell phones in the event of an accident or moving violation?

Asked by jca (36062points) March 15th, 2016

Are you in favor of law enforcement being able to obtain text and stroke history from cell phones in the event of an accident or moving violation?

In other words, you’re involved in an accident at 12:08 pm and law enforcement gets your text history from the phone (either from the phone itself or from the carrier) and finds that you were texting at the time of the accident.

Another scenario: You’re a pedestrian and hit by a moving vehicle. Law enforcement finds out that the person driving the vehicle was on Facebook from his phone thirty seconds before he hit you.

Are any of those scenarios ok with you? Or do you think that law enforcement should not have access to that history?

This is hypothetical. I’m sure it’s possible to obtain, and it may be something that’s done now, I’m not sure.

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30 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

With a judges warrant it’s ok. You can’t expect the police to have ph.d.‘s in ethics. That’s why we have laws and regulations.

Seek's avatar

The officer on the scene? Fuck no. Any intrusion into my personal computers – phone sized or otherwise – shall only be granted upon the issuance of a warrant.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

If all they are doing is proving you were on the phone at the time of the accident I have no problem, I don’t think they care what you were saying or texting at that time, just the fact you were using the phone instead of driving.
I have no problem with them having the power to see if you were on the phone, not what you were doing on the cell phone.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Absolutely not.

zenvelo's avatar

Not the police. Just the prosecutor going before a judge asking for a warrant.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Yes, with a warrant it’s fine.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

With all this protest of the police accessing peoples cell phone records, is this saying you are guilty of using it while driving?
Because I doubt very much the cops could give a crap about the content of the call, just the time it was made.
If all they are doing is checking to see if you were on the phone at the time of the accident.

Zaku's avatar

No. My electronic devices are mine, and I feel everyone should have a basic human right to a certain amount of privacy, including what’s on my own electronic devices. If I cared enough, I could encrypt them all to kingdom come, and put programs on them which will wipe them if compromised. I shouldn’t have to do that.

I could also run programs which generate all kinds of random false evidence of me using my device, but I shouldn’t have to do that, either.

I also have the right to not use electronic devices at all, in which case no such privacy-violating BS would be possible. I should not have to make that choice, though, in order to avoid being spied upon etc.

johnpowell's avatar

I would like to think we already have laws in place for dealing with distracted drivers. There is no real difference between texting and looking in the fast food bag for a packet of ketchup. If you rear end someone isn’t it pretty much always your fault?

Darth_Algar's avatar

I’m fairly certain there are already statutes in place that allow the prosecution to obtain phone records if need be. So, no.

jca's avatar

@johnpowell: In my state, if you rear end someone they may assign some blame to the car that was hit, for example if the car cut you off. Also, in my hypothetical scenario in the details, the accident in question is not necessarily that you rear end someone. What if you were involved in an accident at an intersection? Changing lanes? Hitting someone who came out of a driveway? Hitting someone in a parking lot? Just some examples I can think of off the bat.

Just throwing out thoughts for everyone: what if your child was a pedestrian and was struck by a moving vehicle? Would you feel law enforcement should have access to the cell history of the driver?

Seek's avatar

I, for one, never touch my phone while driving.

I do have a program that will send texts by voice command, which I use occasionally. Otherwise, it’s plugged into my dashboard and left alone.

My point is, there is no good reason for a reporting officer to have access to my personal computer. None. Period.

jca's avatar

@Seek: What about the examples I gave of others – we’re not necessarily talking about your phone, but the phones of others, or in the example I gave just now (above), what if your child was struck by a moving vehicle?

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

What @johnpowell said.

No. I’m not in favor of law enforcement having access to a person’s phone. Even with a warrant.

jca's avatar

Just to clarify for all, my question was not necessarily about your cell phone, but in case of accident or ticket, all cell phones involved.

I think as far as law enforcement goes, everyone says they don’t touch their phones but they might be.

Seek's avatar

You’re appealing to emotion.

I’m sure we’d all be “safer” if records of our phone calls were monitored and automatically put on file with law enforcement, and if they bugged all of our houses to spy on citizens in order to find out who is a drug kingpin or a terrorist.

Nope. I do not condone violations of the fourth amendment. I find a warrantless search of a person’s personal computer to be an unreasonable search.

jca's avatar

I’m not talking about anything other than cell phones. I’m not talking about spying on citizens or hidden cameras. Yes, I’m thinking of examples where the parent has a child that is a victim, and how things change when you’re on the news, crying. Here in NYC (I see the NYC news on my stations even though I don’t live in NYC), at least once a week there’s a hit and run. I was thinking of how I’d feel if I were the parent and what I would like to be done if it were my child as the victim. That’s why I am asking not necessarily if it were any Jellies who committed the offense but if we were the victim, or we didn’t cause the car accident, would we want more transparency.

I am also asking because in my one hour commute to and from work, all the time I see people on their phones, talking or looking at the phone or texting. This is on a highway where there’s a 65 mph speed limit but most people are going 80, some faster (and of course, some slower).

johnpowell's avatar

@jca :: The person hit your kid and should be charged for hitting your kid which is what we currently do. Knowing that they were texting changes nothing. And I say this as someone who was hit by a car when I was seven years old and again when I was 21 and again when I was 29 and again when I was 35.

There is too much of a slippery slope here. Three of the times I was hit were before smartphones.

LuckyGuy's avatar

That data is already available from the tower if there is a court order. They don’t need the phone. As a taxpayer I don’t mind if the officer makes a preliminary non-binding determination on the spot so the expensive tower data is not always required.
If the driver can show the phone was not in use then the officer can tick off a box on the accident report and be done with it.

In NY texting while driving is an offense in its own right., even if there is no accident. (Don’t most states have similar laws by now?) We are found guilty just on the officer’s say so.

Seek's avatar

In Florida it’s technically an offense for anyone under a certain age to text while driving, but the way the law was written there is no way to enforce it.

The sponsor of the bill literally said they wrote it so parents could tell their teens it is illegal.

Seek's avatar

If someone hit my child with their vehicle, their Twitter profile would be the last thing on my mind.

Strauss's avatar

I think they should need a warrant to look into any of my (or anyone else’s) information devices. A warrant usually requires a sworn statement of probable cause.

jca's avatar

In NYS, the current fine is several hundred dollars plus 93 dollar surcharge and 5 points, for the first offense. If it’s a license for a teen, the license can be revoked. If I were involved in an accident or someone I knew were hit by a vehicle, I’d be happy if they were punished to the fullest extent, including fine, points (meaning higher insurance, too) and possibly having their license revoked. If it were me, they could look at my phone and if I committed an offense, I’d take the punishment.

It reminds me of drinking and driving – many will tell the cop they’ve not had any drinks, but then the breathalyzer comes out and voila, they’re found to have had some drinks. I’m grateful for the technology to test people for that.

Darth_Algar's avatar


There is already the means for the prosecution to obtain such info if it is decided that info is needed. There’s no good reason or need to allow the officer on the scene to start looking through your shit there.

jca's avatar

@Darth_Algar: I’m not necessarily talking about the cop on the scene. What @LuckyGuy said.

Darth_Algar's avatar


And he was talking about the officer on the scene making a “preliminary, “non-binding” determination” so they don’t necessarily have to obtain the records later.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Texting in my car is accomplished through the Siri capable head unit of my car’s audio system. This makes for hands and eyes free operation through an upper center mounted microphone and the car’s front speakers. Siri reads as well as dictates messages for me.

Technically, this means my focus isn’t the usual 100+% I try to employ. But since my eyes are never taken from the road and my hands never leave the wheel (optional steering wheel remote) it’s far safer than what many people do.

An officer would be respectfully denied access to my phone, WARRANT. But then again, the officer or witnesses would never see my smartphone in my hands so there wouldn’t be suggestions of texting by me in the events leading to a crash anyway.

Safer as it is to do it this way, If I were involved in an accident I would still forever wonder if I could have done a better job of avoiding, read anticipating, a wreck had I not been speaking or listening.

LAWYER. Post accident I would fight to keep evidence limited to that that could be helpful in exonerating me.

si3tech's avatar

@jca Yes, I am in favor of that.

DoNotKnowMuch's avatar

@jca – I did see this earlier today and cringed. That’s the worst idea I’ve seen in a very long time. As someone in software, I know how this stuff works. A company gets an idea that something is possible. They create the technology (the “Textalyzer”), then sell it to police departments/towns/districts as a safety measure. States and towns get budgets and often approvals for such things are made by a couple of people. Rarely do these actually get enough public attention or go up for a true RFP and review process.

So, I suspect that is what we have here. This ridiculous technology is designed for false positives, for starters. My device can be in my pocket. When I’m driving down the street, I don’t touch my phone or even look at it. I just say, “Text [wife’s name] I’m on my way home”. If I then get in an accident, some jackass with the “Textalyzer” will think I was texting and driving (looking at my phone). Bad technology designed for sales, already 5 years behind the times, and not really addressing the core issue of distracted drivers.

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