Wisconsin has become the 25th state to issue a ban on texting while driving. This ban goes into effect today, December 1st and allows officer to stop drivers they suspect are texting with no other cause.
The fines are steep: first time offenders can expect to pay up to $400 in fines and have up to 4 points added to their license. Second time offenders can pay up to $800.
Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke told WTMJ4 that law enforcement officers will also be confiscating the phone in question in order to establish whether or not a text was indeed sent. While Clarke has the support of the lawmaker behind the texting ban, Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), many Wisconsinites are questioning the legality of seizing personal property without a warrant.
I agree that texting while driving is completely unsafe and borders on reckless. I fully support a ban on texting while driving and think that those who do should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I do have an issue with law enforcement officers seizing personal property without a warrant and/or based on their own personal observation. Dialing a cell phone is not (yet) illegal in Wisconsin and I wonder how officers are going to distinguish between a driver who is dialing (which is also unsafe, I should add) and one who is texting?
Time to weigh in – what do you think about officers taking cell phones? Is it justified? Constitutional? Or is it an abuse of power?