In Johnson County and throughout the nation there is a new focus on texting while driving. For those who may have had some drinks before driving, this reality suggests that mobile communication within a vehicle carries the increased prospect of a texting while driving stop turning into a dui arrest.
Increasingly I have been defending cases where a dropped cell phone, or focus on one’s i phone has caused a vehicle to cross the center line or cause other indicators of potential impairment. Specifically, texting while driving has become an ongoing source of intense law enforcement scrutiny. I would contend that the impairment caused by texting while driving rivals if not surpasses the alleged threats that are claimed to be caused by drunk driving.
By sheer numbers, the majority the driving public now have some form of access to mobile devices. As a legal purchase and a lawful consumer item, at present law enforcement has had a difficult time quantifying how to meet the ongoing threat of texting within motor vehicles by lawful means. Unlike the manner in which law enforcement officials have come to investigate impaired drivers from alcohol or drug related activity, attempting to establish probable cause for impaired texting has been more problematic.
Objective modes of detection presently exist for police officers to measure the existence of alcohol or drugs within the bloodstream of a driver targeted for an impaired driving arrest and ultimate prosecution. With the use of mobile devices, the use of search warrants to seize suspected phones or other means of communication have not been implemented.
I would suspect that the public outcry directed at governmental officials by those who have had these valuable devices confiscated would be too much for the driving public and legislators to readily accept. Further, should the confiscation not in fact produce a potential time frame within which to tie up the alleged impaired driving with texting activity, those confiscating police officials would be sure to feel the heat of ridicule.
As a result, I believe the difficulties in proving texting while driving will not allow for an increase in convictions for such activity under the present state of Indiana law. However, what this increased scrutiny will do is provide traffic cops the legal excuse they need to stop and question those engaged in texting while driving activity. From there, the questioning and on scene investigation will be not to focus on a texting while driving citation but the prized dui arrest.
For the above referenced reasons it is my contention that the easy target of apprehending motorists for drunk driving through objective evidence on scene is allowing the proliferation of texting while driving to continue unabated.
Often political realities are permitted to pervade the workings of law enforcement priorities. Although texting while driving has become an emerging problem, continued and increased pursuit of drunk driving activity will be continued with ever increasing public expense simply because of the ease of determining probable cause.
In my opinion, it is this probable cause for a dui stop that will prove to be the greatest risk for those engaged in texting while driving activity. Despite my personal belief that texting while driving has become a more present danger to roadway safety than dui, the difficulty in proving such cases will allow its true risk to become the legal invitation it provides a traffic cop to stop your vehicle and question your activities.
Despite the low risk of texting while driving resulting in a penalty in Indiana, the lesson must be made clear; if drinking prior to driving your vehicle please be mindful not to text or engage in other social media activity. By doing so you or one you care for will be depriving the police of an easy lawful opportunity to pull you over in search of an arrest that could have been otherwise avoided.