Law Allowing Police To Confirm Texting While Driving In Alabama?

A bill recently introduced in another state is being considered in Alabama also. The proposed legislation would allow police to take cellphones from the parties involved in accidents to check and verify if the person was talking and/or texting while driving. As most people are aware, texting while driving is a danger, and since 2012, illegal activity on Alabama Highways.

Lawmakers in Alabama do not believe that legislation like this would pass and have concerns that it may be in violation of Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. They point to the fact that other ways exist to obtain the information if needed, such as phone records provided by the district attorney's office after an accident. The issue is one of direct observation of the incident. In Alabama, traffic accident reports are not admitted as evidence at trial since they are considered second-hand accounts of events if the officer did not directly witness the crash. 

This same logic, they conclude, would apply to cellphones. Just the presence of one does not, in itself, indicate that it was being used at the time of the accident. Those who favor a bill like this for Alabama however, see a flaw in this type of thinking. They feel since texting has been determined to be an illegal activity while driving, as is consuming alcohol, that the police should be allowed to check the call log to verify usage, just as they are allowed to check open containers found at accidents to confirm if they have alcohol.

Whatever the outcome of this debate is, the fact is that texting while driving has been proven to be dangerous, even fatal on Alabama roads. A person who has been injured in an accident in which they believe the other driver was distracted by texting has the right to know if that was the cause, and to recover money damages for their injuries if it is proven that the other driver was negligent. This legislation being considered would make that easier, but even if it is not considered, it is helpful for those who have been victims of an accident to know how this information can be obtained under Alabama's current laws.

Source:, "AL lawmakers respond to bill allowing police to take cell phones at wrecks," June 17, 2013.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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