Texting While Driving, An Illegal Offense
With new legislation that went into effect on July 1, 2019, drivers might want to think twice before texting while behind the wheel. Under the law, texting while driving is a primary offense. That means a police officer can pull over a driver if they are reading or typing out a message on their phone. Before this law was enacted, texting while driving was a secondary offense, which meant an officer could only cite a motorist for texting if they had first been pulled over for some other traffic offense.
In addition to the restriction on texting while driving, the legislation makes it illegal to use a hand-held device while traveling through a school or road construction zone. The state is allowing a learning period for this section of the law, which means, until December 31, 2019, officers can issue only warnings to violators. After that date, law enforcement will begin citing drivers. The warnings will not be recorded on a person’s driving record.
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What Are the Violation Penalties?
If a person is caught texting, emailing, or instant messaging while driving or using their phone in a school or highway work zone, they could be fined $30 for their first offense. The penalty increases to $60 for a second and subsequent offense that occurs within 5 years of the prior conviction.
Will the Police Take a Person’s Phone if They Are Caught Violating this Law?
An officer cannot confiscate a person’s cell to check whether or not they were texting while driving. Generally, police must have a warrant or the individual’s consent to take possession of their personal property.
Can a Person Text or Send a Message While at a Stoplight?
The law only prohibits using a wireless communication device to send messages while the car is in motion. A person who texts while their vehicle is stopped will not be considered violating this law. However, they could be cited if what they are doing on their phone is so distracting that don’t realize the light has changed and they stop the flow of traffic.
Can a Cell Still Be Used to Make Calls?
Whether a person can engage in a phone call while driving depends on where they are. If the driver is not in a school or construction zone, they are not prohibited from talking to others on their phone. However, beginning October 1, 2019, holding the phone to make or receive a call in a restricted area will result in a warning (or a ticket if the offense occurs on or after the first of next year). Drivers can still use hands-free technology.
Is Using a Navigation System While Driving Prohibited?
It is not unlawful for a driver to use their phone or other devices to receive and follow directions from one place to another.
Schedule a Free 30-Minute Consultation with The Law Office of Wyndel G. Darville, PLLC
Under the new law, texting while driving is a noncriminal traffic infraction that could result in a ticket and points being placed on your license. If you were pulled over for this offense, contact me today to discuss your case. I will take the time to understand your situation and begin building a strategy to fight the citation.