Massachusetts today joins 29 other states that have banned texting while driving. While texting behind the wheel may reduce driver awareness, did we really need our beloved state legislators passing legislation banning the practice? After all, as any Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer knows, under G.L. c. 24(2)(a) it is already a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle negligently.
Some may argue that though texting while driving may be prosecutable under G.L. c. 24(2)(a), this recent legislation clarifies the prohibition and, thereby, discourages the practice – ostensibly saving lives. Nearly any legislation can be justified by claiming it saves lives, protects children, or just makes our world a little bit safer. But government efforts to keep us safe almost always undermines individual liberty and encourage further government intrusion into our lives.
Because of this legislation, police are now empowered to stop a motorist if they see him simply holding a cell phone – not actually texting. Looking to see who’s calling you? You can be stopped. Making a call? You can be stopped. Checking the time? You can be stopped. Using your iPhone as a GPS device? You can be stopped.
How will you prove to an officer who has pulled you over that you were not texting? Will you have to permit him to examine your cell phone’s texting history? Will he demand access to the cell phone? Can he simply seize it and search it?
What if you were only texting while stuck in traffic or stopped at a red light? Is it fair for the officer to cite you when, clearly, you were not endangering anyone? If you want to appeal a citation for texting, you will need to retain a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney. You will, likely, be required to allow the Clerk Magistrate to examine your cell phone to disprove the officer’s suspicion? Do you want to allow the Clerk Magistrate to thumb through your texting history? Will suffering another invasion of your privacy remedy the initial violation of your right to privacy?
This law will invite a new level of governmental intrusion into our everyday lives and, very likely, save not one life.
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