Welcome back to the second and final installment of Appelman Law Firm’s “Texting While Driving” blog series. Last week we outlined the Laws and Consequences of texting and driving in Minnesota. Now we’ll explore some of the issues with enforcing the law, and the possible defenses against a texting while driving criminal charge.
Texting while driving has been proven to increase the risk of car accidents. This is why many states, including Minnesota, have adopted laws to discourage the activity. The intentions of the law are good, but its biggest problem is the question of how to go about enforcing it.
Say a police officer pulls someone over because he witnesses them texting while driving. What’s to stop that person from deleting their text messages and stashing their phone before the officer approaches the vehicle? In this scenario the officer has no hard evidence unless he happened to snap a picture of that person committing the offense.
Even if the driver failed to delete his/her text history before being pulled over, the officer has no right to seize the driver’s cell phone. The driver can simply refuse to surrender his personal property to the officer. Only in extreme circumstances (such as a severe crash) can an officer obtain a search warrant for a driver’s phone.
Police officers in the 24 states that currently have texting while driving bans are finding it difficult to enforce the law. “It’s really tough to tell if someone is texting while they’re driving because there’s no device for us to tell. Everything is visual,” says George Basar, Police Chief of Howell, MI.
These enforcement difficulties make a texting while driving offense very defendable. Since it is based so heavily on the subjective view points of police officers, such a charge would be incredibly difficult to prove in court.
“The burden on the state to thoroughly prove a texting while driving charge is immense,” says Criminal Defense Lawyer, Avery Appelman. “Unless an officer seizes an offender’s cell phone (which they can’t do without a warrant), the charge is entirely based on visual testimony. It seems that this law, like many, is ripe with loopholes.”