Introducing the Textalzyer: Roadside Text Message Monitoring After a Car Accident

By Jonathan Blecher on May 12, 2016

For decades, the police have been using roadside breathalyzers to determine if drivers are intoxicated. But drunk driving is not the only problem the roadways of our country are faced with anymore. Now people need to be worried if the person one lane over is on their smartphone and texting or not. What can law enforcement do to cut to the chase to identify and penalize texting drivers?

They can use a brand new textalyzer, of course! In New York, police officers in squad cars may soon be testing out the textalyzer, a piece of equipment that can analyze a driver’s cellphone immediately after a car accident to determine if they were using it at the time of collision. The device is under development from Cellebrite, a company that has suspected ties to the FBI’s recent cracking of an encrypted iPhone (see a recent article from here).

The obvious problem of the textalyzer is its potential to violate the Fourth Amendment, peering into people’s private data and private lives with the click of a button. Apparently anticipating this issue, the developers have promised that it would only “scrape” a cellphone’s data, not actually collect or decode it. Basically, it will only look for the groundwork of cellphone use, some basic code to show that the phone was being interacted with at a certain time but not exactly what was being done.

New York State legislators have proposed that the implied consent law – getting behind the wheel and driving on public roads means you automatically consent to chemical testing if you are pulled over for a DUI – should be modified to include implied consent to the textalyzer, should you be in a car accident. Failing to allow the police to scan your device for evidence of texting, gaming, video recording, etc. would trigger an automatic license suspension.

Whenever new driving legislation rolls around, there is an extensive list of pros and cons to go with it. If the textalyzer actually does gain approval in New York, will it become regular throughout the country? Not necessarily but it would be hard to challenge if the NYPD saw an increase in texting traffic tickets and a decrease in distracted driving accidents.

For more information on this ongoing story, you can read a full article from Ars Technica here. For help with a DUI defense case in Florida, contact my firm and a Miami DUI attorney can help you understand your rights during a free initial consultation.

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