State to Allow Cops to Snatch Your Phone After Being Stopped and Search it Using a “Textalyzer”

textalyzerBy Justin Gardner

As government continues to expand, finding ever more ways to feed itself through taxation, it seeks to justify this burgeoning existence. Enter the Nanny State.

New York is a leader in developing laws and regulations to protect us from ourselves, perhaps most famously with the Big Apple’s attempt to ban large-size sugary drinks. The Empire State has the highest cigarette taxes in the nation, which fuels a black market, and it places heavy restrictions on other “sins.”

No one doubts that cigarettes and an excess of sugary drinks are bad for the health, but it is not the state’s responsibility to manage this behavior. The issue becomes trickier when bad behavior puts other people’s lives in danger.

New York was the first state to place restrictions on cell phone use while driving, which has prompted 46 other states to ban texting while driving over the last seven years. The issue of driving while distracted—especially texting—has undoubtedly become a huge problem.

Unfortunately things are not getting better, as road fatalities are up sharply after years of decline. While the impact of texting while driving is debated, the fact remains that personal responsibility—through good parenting, awareness campaigns and common sense—is the surest way to address the problem.

New York legislators are seeking to expand the state’s involvement in the issue, and this time with dire consequences for privacy rights. The proposed bill would allow cops to take a person’s cell phone and connect it to a machine called the Textalyzer.

It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity.

The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer.

The legal theory of “implied consent” that is used for the Breathalyzer—where drivers consent in advance when obtaining a license—would also be employed here. Instead of insisting that a person breathe into a tube, cops would be able to snatch your cell phone and analyze its data.

Proponents of the bill are quick to say that the Textalyzer would not allow police to look at emails or texts. One sponsor of the bill, Felix Ortiz, expressed his enthusiasm at the heavy-handed tactic.

“We need something on the books where people’s behavior can change,” said Mr. Ortiz, who pushed for the state’s 2001 ban on hand-held devices by drivers. If the Textalyzer bill becomes law, he said, “people are going to be more afraid to put their hands on the cellphone.”

If passed, the law would surely meet with resistance from advocates for constitutional rights. In 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police need a warrant to search a cell phone, even after an arrest.

Some would argue that because the Textalyzer is only checking to see if certain apps were used—not scraping content off your phone—it is not considered a “search.”

But as Noah Feldman, a Bloomberg View columnist, points out, the device would have to look at all of your apps and differentiate between texting and others that are permissible, such as audio apps. Also, would people be forced to unlock their phones, or would the Textalyzer be able to bypass encryption?

It seems that it would be easy to demonstrate to a court that the device is indeed a search tool and subject to the warrant requirement.

Proponents of the bill are relying heavily on equating the Textalyzer to the Breathalyzer. However, measuring the carbon dioxide in one’s breath is a simple and proven test that accurately detects blood-alcohol level.

The Textalyzer is not straightforward and cannot reliably tell if the driver was distracted or even using a cell phone. Several scenarios could render the test meaningless.

What if the driver asks a friend to send a text message? What if the driver had texted just before getting behind the wheel? Is the time frame arbitrary? What if an automated email response was sent, and the driver didn’t touch the phone? What if the driver is using a GPS app, and something in the program was mistaken for using the keyboard?

There are many ways in which the Textalyzer could give the wrong impression to cops.

Finally, there is the very real issue of cops being unable to resist trampling on your rights. Once they have the phone in their hands, safely in their vehicle, how many cops will go ahead and search it, actually looking through your text messages, emails and pictures? Far too often we have seen police violate rights in this way and get away with it.

“It really invites police to seize phones without justification or warrant,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Rather than using the power of the state to further dismantle privacy rights–with a device that would easily produce false positives–efforts should focus on awareness campaigns.

Harvard’s School of Public Health—the same entity that created the designated driver campaign in the 1980s—is developing a new campaign for distracted driving, including encouraging parents to set a better example. Groups are pressuring social media like Facebook and Twitter to discourage distracted driving.

YouTube will be recruiting stars to create original content pushing the message to refrain from texting and distracted driving. AT&T, NASCAR and a major automaker are other potential partners in Harvard’s awareness campaign.

There is an app called LifeSaver that automatically locks a cell phone when driving starts, and unlocks it after a programmed wait time upon stopping. It is aimed toward teenage drivers; parents can track phone activity and reward good behavior.

Cell phone providers are responding, too, with features that turn off text notifications when in a moving car. It can even respond with an automated text saying that you are driving.

In the age of smartphones, distracted driving is certainly a dangerous problem. There are many paths to a solution, but giving police the power to invade your privacy through a Textalyzer, thus giving them more temptation to further violate your rights, is not the answer.

Justin Gardner writes for, where this article first appeared.

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56 Comments on "State to Allow Cops to Snatch Your Phone After Being Stopped and Search it Using a “Textalyzer”"

  1. If they don’t have probable cause they can’t take your phone. This is like the “DUI” check points.

    • I hope you enjoy spending 72 hours in “holding”. The second you mention “probable cause”, You will a arrested and held over for a hearing. Then, regardless, the judge will charge you “court costs” to be paid in cash before you’re released.

      • You must have a plan other than it’s my right. I do have other plans for the corporate police and the judge and they will pay me!! Look up Carl Miller.

    • Tell that to the jackboot standing at your window shining a 5 D-cell Maglite in your face and his other hand on his Glock that he is seriously thinking of shooting you in the face with. Explain to them at that point what is constitutional and what is not. I’m sure they will eagerly have that conversation with you…while you are in the back seat going to booking and in-processing.

  2. “which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear”… you don’t hold a phone to your ear when you text. This is only supposed to be used if the person is involved in a collision… as long as it stays that way then cool, but what do you bet that this will be used at most stops whether or not they involve a collision.

  3. What are they going to do if you left your phone at home and don’t have it with you? Will they try to search your car?

  4. The cell phone is a weapon of mass destruction.

  5. “Hang up and drive,” doesn’t mean, “Stand and deliver to highwaymen.”

  6. The verbiage states, “It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones….”.

    Does this restrict the law to ‘accidents only’ or just driving along? Important distinction here.

    And the ‘textalizer’; if the arriving officer doesn’t read or look at texts, then specifically WHO does do that?

  7. First I’ve heard (read) of this. TY AP.
    My 2 cents – they will grab any chance for new toys – the more they pry the bigger the smile. Blue thugs keeping the commoner on the ‘line.’

  8. This is the type of s&%t that happens when you allow the government to tell you driving is a privilege. They know driving is a necessity for most people to live, so they’re gonna take any chance they get to to hold that over your head if you don’t comply

    • Driving is NOT inherently a privilege, regardless of what the DMV, police, courts and government say. Pretending for a moment that our Constitution is still operational, it’s EXPLICIT about our free right to travel. (Yes, I know cars did not exist when the Constitution was created. But, regardless of the MODE of travel, it is still an inherent right!) In a nutshell, what the government has done is convert basic RIGHTS into PRIVILEGES (thereby making activities like driving licensable and taxable!) Essentially, when we obtain a “drivers license” from the various states, we have entered into a CONTRACT. But make no mistake about it: These contracts are fraudulent! Obviously, that’s a whole other subject area for further exploration (for those who have inquiring minds). Anyhow, after entering into these bogus contracts with the government, they use those contracts as the basis to presume certain OTHER things about you that aren’t true. (For example, you’ve waived your rights, you’re subject to the “Motor Vehicle Code”, etc.)

      • You are absolutely 100% correct. Any time something becomes a “privilege”, that means you have up your right at some point, usually in the form of licensing. Citizens paid for the roads, own the roads, and own their own vehicles. Where does the government have any authority to to tell you how and when you can use them? I do agree everybody should know how to drive a vehicle before travelling on the roads, but after that, you can drive all you want. Licensing and motor code laws are big business for the government. They’ve successfully brainwashed millions of people into giving away that right to travel in fear that everybody will be killing each other in car accidents unless the government steps in to control it

      • Rights were converted to privileges of citizenship by the 14th amendment. Citizenship happened involuntarily in violation of the 13th amendment–go figure.

  9. Recall the nanny state oath of office violator Ortiz or just be a bowled over sheep and shut up?

  10. Since my life was derailed by someone who thought their phone call was more important than watching where they were going, good. Could be abused but as the parameters are laid out here it’s ok.

    • I am curious if the STATE made sure you received restitution or just took the money for itself.

    • Too bad you cannot see past the tip of your own nose. You might see some seriously SERIOUS problems with this whole topic and the tech that goes with it if you could.

      • All the tech is a double edged sword. I just happen to agree with this one.

        • It is steps like the one that you are asking for that has gotten us into the police state in which we currently live. That I believe is what the disagreement here is all about. A term I have read that sums it up nicely is “totalitarian tiptoe”.

        • The reason you agree with it will be the very thing they do not do with it once implemented, Lud. How is it that you still believe “they” will do the right thing with tech? So far they have not.

  11. Just more Stupid, Stupid, Stupid insanity of government. Tell me please how the textalyzer is going to show that you pulled over before texting.

  12. Tough Call! Now that I am retired…I can speak my mind. I seen (and investigated,) a LOT of accidents where distracted driving was evident. As long as this App. ONLY tells the officer WHEN activity was done…I would support it. (Most officers won’t pursue a search warrant-unless death or critical injury occurred in the accident.) But! On the other side of the fence, I spent 40+ years in military, and being a street deputy. Government has over stepped it’s boundaries, and has infringed on law abiding citizens rights to live a “normal” life. Whatever happened to innocent UNTIL proven guilty?
    Sounds like a good idea-on the surface. But I would be leary. And I worked for the “system.”

    • Sir, it is STILL a direct violation of our 4th Amendment! I too was in Law Enforcement and knew VERY clearly the Bill or Rights AND the entire Constitution!

      • Not to get into semantics with your comment, but to try and clarify mine….
        The 4th Amendment, as you stated DOES protect you. Except when there is PC. As I said I investigated too many accidents where distracted driving was evident. In those cases, this app. sounds like a good idea. And I congratulate you on your advanced studies of the Constitution & Bill of Rights. I focused on the street side of law enforcement, and left the legal-eze to the attorneys and eggheads. My job was tough enough as it was. I let the support people write the policy. I just followed it.
        By the way (for you) I served at Marble Mountain with Marine group HML-367 in 70-71. Even though I was Navy, I was “loaned” to the Marines as a right door gunner in a Huey, because I could “chop the trees off” at 800 yards. (Least that was what the W-4 in the right seat used to say.) Thank You for your service brother!

        • So you were a tree killer, and then you moved on to a rewarding career following the orders of eggheads. Neat.

          • Pyra Gorgon | May 25, 2016 at 6:45 am |

            Contain your rabid environmentalism. Not everyone worships New-Agey “mother earth” gaia heathenism.

          • My comment has nothing to do with that, nothing to with worship either. I have never heard the term “Gaia Heathenism” but it’s pretty stupid. If someone doesn’t love the earth they live on and that sustains every single thing they do to exist, they’re pretty stupid.

          • “Tree Killer”?? Explain yourself-please. As for my career, and what I did…you don’t know me, (or anything about me.) But, you are entitled to YOUR opinion. I guess the first impression I made on you was not good. Sorry about that. 99.5% of all the people I have dealt with in my life would disagree with you. I won’t lose any sleep over it-trust me. You know…you might want to seek some professional help for your (apparent) insecurity in life. There IS help available. Hope you find peace in ‘your’ troubled world.

          • I am so sorry. I thought that “chopping trees off at 800 yards” meant you were killing trees, not people. Let me amend my statement then, to allow that you were following the policy of eggheads for your entire life, and you’re apparently very proud of that, whereas people like me who don’t kill people on the orders of eggheads are “insecure” and need help…. and people wonder why our world is so freaking screwed up.

          • Ok! I see you are deeply committed to your beliefs, and you are to be commended for it. It would be fruitless for me to try and tell you that I hope that the day never comes for you that you have to KILL. (To defend a loved one, OR this country.) You have lived a very sheltered life. Not your fault. It’s how you were raised & where. I on the other hand have experienced, lived, and almost have died in the real world.
            We will agree to disagree on this. We come from two different worlds, (and upbringing.) Your attitude is commendable-but SOMEONE will always have to do the “dirty work.” Sleep well tonight. Some people are “making it so.”
            I don’t apologize for anything I did in life. I just did the best that I could.
            Goggle “The Man in The Glass” It’s a poem I have lived by since I came “home” from Nam.

          • It’s not a matter of living a sheltered life, you know nothing of my life. You’re the one who laid your life out for all to see and admire, not me. No, it’s a matter of choice, Deputy. You chose what you did with your life and I chose what I did. No one calls me a hero, but the killers demand to be called heroes and respected for doing “all the dirty work.” I’ve been hearing this line since Nam. That is how you justify killing the purported “enemy,” and I imagine the black ops people feel the same justification for what they do willingly today. I’m sorry you decided to go to Nam. Many didn’t, they were called cowards for standing up for their beliefs. Not much as changed, I see.

          • Never asked to be called a HERO, that’s for TV & Movies. And, anyone shooting at me IS the enemy. I don’t know any black ops, but suspect they have honor-still. I didn’t decide to go to Nam on my own, I was drafted, and did my civic duty. And you are right in your assessment of the cowards who ran to Canada. They are hero’s in the Liberal world of today.
            We will disagree on a lot of things…but you & I are talking. Don’t agree on everything, but we are dialoging. It’s a start. Thanks for your time.

          • There hero meme is in TV and movies, any everywhere else, in order convince young people to sign up to be killers. You still believe that going to a country thousands of miles away to kill people who are no threat to you or your country is doing your civic duty? I’m still waiting, since the 70’s, for someone explain to me how killing people in countries that are no threat to the US is “keeping us safe” and allowed me to live this sheltered life you suppose I’ve led. I have been to Vietnam and I have seen with my own eyes the devastation caused by people “doing their civic duty”… the question is, duty to whom and to what? Those who shoot someone out of trees because someone told them they are “the enemy” only serve dark masters, there is no honor in it anywhere. This is not self-defense, you traveled to their world and opened fire, they didn’t come to your country or pose any threat to us whatsoever.

            I believe you are probably a good person because you are still working out your guilt for having participated in a huge mistake and getting praise, admiration, or brotherhood from others helps. Maybe you should just forgive yourself so you can stop flying your fake hero flag and move on into truth (and some logic would help.)

            Yes, it’s good we are talking. Perhaps it’s time we had these conversations finally.

          • I had another comment you may have seen but I decided to delete because this is what I really want to say to you-

            This is what I know about civic duty: my husband is a volunteer fireman, EMR, search and rescue and wildland firefighter. He has spent most of his life training for all these duties, on his own free time, weekends and nights, and is on call 24/7, every day of the year, to fight fires, rescue people lost or injured in the wilderness, respond to traffic accidents and medical emergencies in the middle of the night, in frigid winters and sunny holiday weekends. He was a “draft dodger” (nice meme, eh?) who left the country because he was a conscientious objector- he simply refused to kill anyone, ever. He is not a coward in any way, shape or form and sometimes his bravery astounds me. The insults and the legal battles he fought for his beliefs have hounded him his entire life, yet he has no guilt, shame, or anger burdening his soul. Instead he does his civic duty quietly, without fanfare, without pay of any kind- no benefits, no retirement, no military discounts, no free college, no insurance… and he helps people and saves their lives and property instead of shooting them out of trees and bragging about it. There are no glorified monuments to death, no national holidays and parades, and no praise, other than a simple “thank you” from the people he helps. He is a real-life hero who actually keeps people safe, me and you included.

          • Sadly your husband is paying for his failure to duty & country, by lack of the country’s support in his later years. I can tell you are very proud of your husband, for standing up for his beliefs. I may not agree with HOW he did it, but a person has to stand for what they believe in. I believe that this adage serves us all…”All actions have unwanted reactions.”
            Best to you & your husband. But as I said, you and I have come from much different worlds. Good, bad, indifferent, it is what it IS. I’ll look for your posts in the future.
            Nice to discuss things with someone of intelligence, and not just ranting & raving over Liberal/Conservative, Democrat/Republican dribble.

          • No, there was no “failure to duty and country” and you have no right to make that judgment. Even if they dragged you there in chains and made you shoot people out of trees, bragging about now is pathological. You know…you might want to seek some professional help for your (apparent) insecurity in life. There IS help available. Hope you find peace in ‘your’ troubled world.

          • it isn’t a judgement call on my part…it WAS a failure of your husband to respond to the draft AND serve his country-period. I don’t (and never did) interpret the law, I enforced it. By the laws of the United States, what he did was illegal-period.
            I never passed judgement on your husband. I just told you I didn’t agree with his choice. He (and you) will live with it.
            Sorry I hit a raw nerve. Some of us served our country with pride…and some didn’t.
            Touche on your last comment. Enjoy your lifes.

          • OMG…. you are proud because you served your country by shooting people out of trees? Ya, you hit a raw nerve, the nerves that I possess and you don’t called morals, ethics and brains. You not only can’t hold a candle to my husband, you are an embarrassment to humanity.

          • So now we see the Liberal in you. All I did was bring your attention to the fact that what your husband did WAS illegal, and they actually prosecuted & jailed people that refused to do their duty to country. But that bothered YOU, and now you resort to Liberal name calling. I thought better of you & we could have an intelligent discussion. Maybe I was wrong.
            And I never compared myself to your husband, or said I was better. I chose to honor & serve my country of birth. As thousands of Vets have done over the last 130 years. And if you have a personal problem with Vets defending their country, and serving in war (or conflicts,) DEAL with it! Or move to Canada, (or other country of your choice..)
            I don’t have to, nor will I ever be ashamed of serving MY country! The only thing I AM sorry for is fighting for your right to bad mouth Vets, and this country.
            NOW, I am mad, and you got my attention.
            BRING IT ON!

          • Well hello, Mr. Robo Cop/Soldier. Now that you’re awake and your brain is functioning on all cylinders, maybe it’s time to stop being so freaking proud of your role as a dutiful slave to the egghead masters and start acting like a human being who can think for themselves instead of blindly following orders and enforcing authoritarian laws. Congratulations, try staying awake long enough to actually earn a place to comment on an activist forum.

  13. I will admit that I used to be a texting and driving fool and thankfully there was no personal or property damage involved. Today I see and understand the dangers and no longer own a cell phone.

    That being said this statement is the most chilling of the article “Cell phone providers are responding, too, with features that turn off text notifications when in a moving car.”

  14. Contrarianthefirst | May 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm |

    Listen, I gave up NY as a lost cause decades ago… it IS ENEMY TERRITORY in my eyes.

    Might as well have all of it’s slave wear red coat, imho.

  15. Police try to run plates before stopping someone. So I suggest that when the plates of an elitist-globalist are run, the cop gets a message to not pull the car over. That includes above all Pilgrims Society members (greatest concentration is in New York City and state); CFR members, Trilateralists, Bilderbergs, Skull & Bones, Wolf’s Head Society, Sphinx Head Society, Berzelius Society, Scroll & Key, Book & Snake, Porcellian, St. George’s Society, Rhodes Scholars, Masonic leaders and key MD’s, attorneys and government officials.

  16. I see so many driver’s texting that I’m angry enough to support a law that says the texters are guilty of attempted murder or at least reckless endangerment.

  17. This is a blatant violation of our IV (4th) Amendment!

    “The right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and, effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall NOT be violated”.

    That is about as plain to understand as anyone can make it!

    “IF” they start pulling this idiotic, unconstitutional practice, we ALL need to file Federal Law Suits!

    What we ‘test’ or ‘send/receive’ from our Families and significant others is NO ONES BUSINESS!

    It is past time we fight the idiots in Court! Some Attorneys WILL take on a case such as this at no upfront charge until a settlement has been reached where in they receive a percentage of the settlement!

    I have done just that concerning my “Open Carrying” of a gun in a State that totally ALLOWS the practice, three (3) times in the past two (2) years and, won the cases hands down! Very short Court time required!!

    I would encourage everyone to do just this! It DOES stop the harassment by Law Enforcement!!

  18. May the circumstance be visited upon you. This is not a violation of privacy rights. Considering your inability to spell correctly, I will assume that you are a victim of the lousy school system in your area and therefore unable to understand the ideas that the words convey in the article.

    • No, Lud. Nothing you wrote is hard to grasp. He is just DISAGREEING WITH YOUR LOUSY OPINION. Lack of intelligence is not needed to explain his behavior.

      • Another one who can not read. I said the article. You have to read beyond the catchy headline to see what it really says. Are you one of these Libertarian Narcissists that thinks they can do whatever whenever just because of FreeDumb?

        I think that pooper scooper’s replies to me, laced with ad hominem attacks in place of any real substantive discussion, underlines his lack of intellect, education, or ability to persuade anyone of his fuzzy position.

        Have you educated yourself on the culture of S Ohio yet?

  19. Do you get all of your exercise by jumping to conclusions? I never mentioned death, you implied it. As for your mindless inarticulate stream of ad hominem invective , yo sound just like the dumbass Biffs and Buffys on FAUX News, which judging by your knowledge of anything, comes directly from them.

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