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Texting and driving is a crime in many states. But what proof do prosecutors need to show that a driver was distracted by a text message?
In one recent case in Maryland, prosecutors allege 19-year-old Haley Meyers was texting and driving moments before her car crashed into a motorcycle, killing the 30-year-old rider. If convicted of negligent manslaughter, Meyers could face up to 10 years in prison, Baltimore's WJZ-TV reports.
This case is an example of how prosecutors can try to prove texting and driving using these three kinds of evidence:
1. Cell Phone Records.
Law enforcement officers in Massachusetts have already been successful in using phone records in criminal court to obtain a conviction for vehicular homicide. In 2012, prosecutors presented evidence that Aaron Deveau sent 193 text messages on the day of a fatal crash. Apparently, proof that Deveau was holding the phone at the time of the crash was not necessary.
In Meyers' case, prosecutors claim to have "cell phone records, which confirm she was texting at the time," WJZ-TV reports.
If you are arrested for a texting-and-driving-related offense, police can easily subpoena your mobile service provider (e.g., AT&T or Verizon) and obtain the timestamps for each text message for a certain day.
According to WJZ-TV, the prosecutors have also verified a witness who allegedly spotted Meyers "driving with one hand on the wheel and the other hand looking down and texting."
While witnesses are often unreliable -- think "12 Angry Men" or "My Cousin Vinny" -- a direct account of a bystander who saw you texting and driving can be pretty damning evidence.
3. Officer's Testimony.
You don't need to cause a fatal crash to be accused of texting and driving. Many states have made the sole act of texting while driving a separate offense; more still have blanket charges for distracted driving.
According to Washington, D.C.'s WUSA-TV, a new Maryland law went into effect October 1, making it a primary offense to text and drive.
Officers need at least reasonable suspicion of a crime in order to make a traffic stop, so an officer could easily recount the reasons he or she had for pulling you over (e.g., he saw you looking down, saw a phone in your hand, etc.) as proof that you were texting and driving.
If you've been cited or arrested based on texting and driving allegations, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area to discuss your options.