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Digital Driver's Licenses: A Risky Proposition

ID Card

Maryland may become one of the first states in the nation to allow motorists to store their licenses in their smartphones. But is this news as positive as it seems?

At first glance, it is difficult to see anything but benefits to digital licenses. Having your ID saved to your phone is undoubtedly more convenient than having to carry a small piece of plastic on your person at all times.

However, there is one notable drawback to digital IDs. They might make it easier for the police to search your phone during a traffic stop.

At the moment, if an officer pulls you over on suspicion of speeding or running through a red light, you typically need to provide them with two things - your driver's license and your vehicle registration paperwork.

If they want access to your smartphone, they generally need a warrant or your consent. That is because the Fourth Amendment protects you from "unreasonable searches and seizures."

Should you begin storing your license on your cell phone, you will need to unlock it and hand it over to any officer that initiates a legal traffic stop. In doing so, you might be giving them implied consent to search through the contents of your device.

When the officer takes your smartphone back to their car to run your ID through their system, they may also take some time to look at your:

  • Texts
  • Emails
  • Call logs
  • Photos
  • Videos

Should they find anything they believe might be evidence of a crime, they can extend your stop for the purposes of an investigation. They may even arrest you and charge you with a crime.

At Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake, we suggest Maryland drivers think long and hard about the risks of digital IDs before ditching their plastic licenses.

Of course, if you do decide to use a digital license and later find yourself in trouble with the law, you can count on our experienced lawyers to help you fight back against your charges. When you need us, just give us a call at (410) 927-5137 or send us a message online. We're available 24/7!