According to the United States Supreme Court, police must have a warrant to search the cell phone of a criminal suspect. you can read the article here. This brings up an interesting issue with regard to cell phone use resulting in car accidents.
In may car accidents, we suspect the defendant driver of using his/her cell phone and not paying attention to the road. Here is where semantics often come into play. What do I mean? If someone is using his/her cell phone, either texting or talking, and causes a wreck, is that an ACCIDENT? I submit to you that it is not an accident. That person chose to use the cell phone over paying attention to the road. Consequently, it’s a wreck, crash or collision, not an ACCIDENT.
Insurance companies and defense attorneys often use the term “accident” because it makes it seem like no one was really at fault. In reality, every car “accident” is caused by lack of attention, speeding, or some other violation of the rules of the road, and these are choices, not accidents.
In light of the above and the need for search warrants, we are often faced with the need to obtain cell phone records. Interestingly, many defendants seem to lose their bills or change phones after a wreck. Consequently, we have to subpoena records from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or other carriers. This can be difficult and time consuming, and these companies do not consistently keep text messages. Therefore, we have to act quickly if we are to preserve such evidence.
The problem with cell phones in cars is that it is very difficult to know when someone was or wasn’t using it without the records. Usually, the person injured in the wreck is taken by surprise and not watching the person causing the wreck, especially if they are hit from behind.
The lesson here is the lesson we hear every day. Stay off your phones while driving!! For more information on texting and driving, visit End Distracted Driving.