Florida’s New Law in Texting While Driving: What You Need to Know
Starting July 1, 2019, Florida joined several other US states in enacting a ban on texting while driving. A July 1, 2019 article in the Sun-Sentinel described important provisions of the new Wireless Communications While Driving Law, which imposes penalties on drivers who engage in dangerous cell phone use behind the wheel of a vehicle. The statute is somewhat complicated, as only certain types of activities could result in a citation. Plus, though the offense is a traffic ticket instead of a serious criminal offense, it’s important to understand the full implications of a violation of the law. You should discuss your circumstances with a Florida traffic violations defense attorney, but an overview of the texting law may be helpful.
The Details of the New Law: Florida lawmakers enacted the recent statute in response to the increase in injury-causing and fatal accidents involving distracted driving. The law prohibits certain forms of cell phone use while driving, including texting and making calls. However, the language goes a step further to forbid holding or handling the device. Therefore, you could also receive a citation for:
- Using your phone as a GPS;
- Playing music through your phone;
- Posting to social media; and,
- Capturing photos or video.
Primary Enforcement of Texting While Driving Laws: In addition to clarifying the kinds of phone use that are prohibited, the new statute also allows primary enforcement. Before the statute was passed, police could only exercise secondary enforcement of texting while driving – i.e., officers could only ticket you if they had already pulled you over for some other reason. Now, which primary enforcement, law enforcement can pull you over and issue a citation on suspicion of texting and driving alone.
In a statement, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) mentioned that troopers will only be issuing warning citations until January 2020. A spokesperson said that this grace period will allow motorists to become familiar with the law and change their behaviors. Still, other law enforcement agencies – including Broward and Miami-Dade County Sheriffs – have not made such a promise.
Penalties for Violations of the Law: There’s a $30 base fine for a first-time violation of the new law on texting while driving; the fine jumps to $60 for a second violation. However, with court costs and fees, even your first citation could be over $100. In addition, this type of citation will add points to your Florida driving record. The implications for your driver’s license are significant:
- If you accumulate 12 points in a year, your license is suspended for 30 days;
- You’ll receive a three month suspension for getting 18 points in 18 months; and,
- Your license is suspended for one year if you’re assessed 24 points within three years.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer About Traffic Citations
If you received a ticket for texting while driving or other traffic-related violations, please contact Fort Lauderdale traffic violations attorney Kevin J. Kulik to schedule a consultation at our office. We’re happy to review your situation and determine the best strategy for fighting a traffic citation.