How Police Prove Distracted Driving

DES MOINES, Iowa  --   We’ve all been there. The lights go on, the officer walks up, and they ask us, 'do you know why I stopped you?'

“I think you’d be surprised how often people admit to exactly to the reason you are stopping them,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department.

Admission of guilt is ideal for police officers, and they hope it will be that simple when the new texting law goes into effect July 1st.

Well, what happens if you don’t know or you don’t admit to driving distracted?

“I think this will be one of the easier ones to prove,” said Sgt. Parizek.

Sgt. Parizek is confident officers across the state will be able to prove this because they’ll have the tape.

“The thing is, we’ve got a new camera system in place. We’ve got new video in our cars. We’ve got video on our person. So I think the violations will be recorded pretty easily,” he said. 

Right now, most patrol units will record anything leading up to and during a stop. However, it’s not uncommon for something to happen so fast--like a lane swerve--they forget to record before pulling them over. Then what?

“It’s not an easy task for law enforcement,” said Pat Hoye of the Governor’s Traffic and Safety Bureau.

You end up at the Polk County Courthouse in misdemeanor court.

“It’s the legal version of he said, she said,” said Sgt. Parizek.

Without evidence or an admission, things get much harder to prove.

“At the present time it’s very difficult, and with the change in the law it’s still going to be a difficult thing. We are going to have to look at every fact and circumstance surrounding it,” said John P. Sarcone, Polk County Attorney.

Sarcone says his office rarely prosecutes those offenses because without evidence it’s difficult to prove, and he doesn’t think much will change with that come July 1st.

“I don’t know how much of a jump or spike they’ll be. It will all depend on what the circumstances are,” said Sarcone.

He does go on to say if it’s a death or serious accidents, those cases would be investigated much differently than a simple violation. In those cases, phone records can be subpoenaed.

The best way to avoid this type of situation altogether is to keep the phone in your pocket.