Friday, July 19, 2013

Driving and texting - A primary offense

So I'm sure you've all heard that it is now against the law to text while driving; this includes reading emails, by the way.  However, it's not against the law to use your phone as a GPS or to dial a phone number.

First of all, it has been against the law to do these things for quite some time now.  Previously, it was a secondary offense - meaning you could not get pulled over just for texting and driving; you had to be breaking the law in another way as well.  Now, it is a primary offense - meaning if a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you are texting while driving, you can be pulled over.

The big picture is this: there is another offense out there which police officers only have to have reasonable suspicion to pull you over for.  This could lead to much more serious charges once you have been stopped on the basis of reasonable suspicion, but that issue is for another day.

The short term picture is this: how will police officers prove that you were texting or emailing and not dialing a phone number?  Even more interesting, how could they prove you were reading an email?  It's not as if they can pull up the halfway typed text message?  Is it enough to show you have a recent email or text to say that you were reading that on your phone?  That cannot be the case.  But then, how will they prove these types of offenses?  The answer to that question, I do not know but I suspect we will find out in the near future as more and more of these cases go to court and the Commonwealth has the burden to prove their case.

Either way, it is still illegal to text or email on your phone while driving.  And all the police officer needs to pull you over is reasonable suspicion that that's what you were doing.  If you are charged with a violation of this law, you should seek the advice of an attorney prior to your court case to ensure your rights are protected.