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Will ‘textalyzers’ soon be used in traffic stops?

| Jul 28, 2017 | Criminal Defense

Distracted driving in Tennessee is still a problem even with a state law that bans the practice of texting and driving. It appears that many motorists believe that police officers won’t stop and cite them for breaking anti-texting rules. Also, a “texting” ticket does not put points on one’s driving record.

To eliminate questions about whether someone was actually texting and driving, researchers are developing what is called a “textalyzer.” The name is derived in part from the device that measures a driver’s blood alcohol content when he or she blows into it. Similarly, the textalyzer could analyze a phone’s usage at a particular time to determine if a driver was checking email, texting or using social media apps while behind the wheel.

In fact, the New York state legislature is poised to study the device to see whether police would actually benefit from the new technology, and to explore any constitutional and privacy concerns it would raise.

Getting someone to turn over their phone for a textalyzer search would not be so easy, given that it would require probable cause and perhaps a warrant. Law enforcement agencies are generally not allowed to compel a motorist to turn over their phone during a routine traffic stop, or force a driver to provide their password to unlock it. So there are a number of privacy obstacles that may prevent the technology from being used to enforce anti-texting laws.

If you have questions about the ability of the police to search your phone, an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney can advise you.