WTOC Investigates: Officials can recover deleted texts if you're pulled over in violation of Hands-Free law

WTOC Investigates: Officials can recover deleted texts if you're pulled over in violating of Hands Free law

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Georgia's new Hands-Free law is in full swing. Texting while driving has always been illegal, but now you will get a ticket for just holding your phone while you're driving.

If you think you can lie and erase the evidence from your phone, you're wrong. We met with a Digital Forensic Analyst who says if a text message, call record, or app is deleted during a traffic stop, it's easily recoverable. If you get pulled over for texting and driving, don't bother trying to cover your tracks. Your cell phone is a living footprint and law enforcement can recover anything - even if you think you've taken out the trash.

"Just because you delete it, it's not gone," said Will Baggett, a Digital Forensic Incident Analyst.  "You think you can delete the evidence just like other people think they can throw the drugs or the beer bottle out the window as they're getting pulled over," said Baggett.

Baggett says current software can track your phone's entire history. He says this applies to any type of media. Your phone monitors all applications you use, even a built-in gyroscope tracks the position of the phone.

"So, it's not just closing the app. There's so much other evidence that can show exactly what was going on at any one moment in time," Baggett said.

We sent a sample text to WTOC's Bureau Chief Dal Cannady, then deleted the entire message thread. Within 30 minutes, Baggett was able to recover every detail.

"There's the deleted date, time, and exactly what the text was," he said.

We then headed out in the area to get a feel for what others think. Most admitted their first instinct would be to hide their trail.

"I thought deleting it would take care of that problem. I didn't know they could bring it back up," said one local, Jim Bell.

"So, would that be your first thought if they pulled you over, to just go ahead and get rid of it," we asked.

"Yeah. That's always my first thought is to try and hide the evidence," Bell said.

"Do you think you should delete it so they wouldn't find it," we asked another local.

"Yeah, or turn your phone off. Either one," they said.

Even though officers can't search your phone on the side of the road, they can issue a warrant. It's simple. Keep your hands on the wheel and off your phone. If you're caught red-handed, the truth will come out one way or another.

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