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Newark Legal Issues Blog

New bill may allow police to use controversial "textalyzer"

New Jersey residents may remember that in 2017, the New York legislature proposed a bill that would have allowed the use of "textalyzers," devices that scan a person's phone to check for activity. That bill was dropped, but the Nevada legislature has proposed a similar measure for its police.

Advocates say the textalyzer can help curb distracted driving, which is a widespread phenomenon. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people died in distraction-related car crashes in 2016, and 14 percent of these crashes involved cellphones. Distracted driving is underreported since drivers may choose not to admit to it. In addition, the lack of a social stigma does not help deter drivers from it.

Opponents say that the textalyzer will violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. However, the maker of the textalyzer, the Israel-based company Cellebrite, has stated that it does not access or store personal content. Some are calling for the tech to be open sourced so that the public can see for itself that the device does not do this.

Other critics believe that the bill may not even be necessary. The proposal states that police must obtain a warrant when drivers refuse to have their phones checked, yet police already have this right. Thus, that provision in the bill won't be considered new.

If it is proven that a distracted driver caused a motor vehicle accident, the other side may be eligible for compensation. As New Jersey is a no-fault state, victims may only be able to file a claim for permanent injuries or death. It may be wise to consult with an attorney. The attorney, possibly with the help of investigators and other third parties, may work to gather proof against the driver. Victims may leave negotiations to their attorney.

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