When Is It a Crime to Text and Drive in Florida?
More than a year after it became effective, most motorists are well-aware of the implications for violating the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law. To many, receiving a noncriminal traffic citation is not a big deal. You pay the ticket, accept the consequences, and do your best to avoid making the same mistake again. However, there are some circumstances where texting, talking on the phone, or other banned cell phone use can lead to much more serious charges. If you cause an accident while on the phone, you can be sure that the nominal fine is the least of your concerns.
When a ticket becomes a potential criminal offense, you need an experienced Florida traffic violations defense lawyer to advocate on your behalf. The following information should convince you that trying to represent yourself in such a case is a mistake.
Florida’s Texting While Driving Law: The statute makes it a noncriminal traffic infraction to text or engage in other prohibited cell phone use while behind the wheel. Police can issue a citation as a primary offense if they observe you on the phone; they do not need another reason to pull you over. For a first-time offense you could face a $30 fine, which doubles for a subsequent violation. A second time-offense also adds three points to your driving record.
When Cell Phone Use Can Lead to Criminal Charges: One of the key goals in passing Florida’s texting while driving law is to reduce accidents and protect other motorists. As such, lawmakers heightened the offense for causing a crash through cell phone use, which also increases the penalties. The potential offenses hinge on the concept of culpable negligence, under which a person could be criminally charged for acts demonstrating a reckless disregard for human life. The nature of the crime depends upon the severity of the collision, as follows:
- If you cause a phone-related accident that results in personal injury to another person, police may arrest you for a First-Degree Misdemeanor. A conviction could mean up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
- The crime is a Third-Degree Felony if you cause a fatal car accident when engaging in unlawful cell phone use. If convicted, a judge could sentence you to a maximum of five years in prison, plus a fine up to $5,000.
Note that a court may also order you to pay restitution to injured victims and their families, as reimbursement for medical costs and other losses. They may also opt to seek to recover monetary damages through a civil lawsuit.
Contact a Florida Traffic Violations Defense Attorney for Legal Help
If you are facing criminal charges stemming from a violation of Florida’s texting while driving law, it is essential that you retain a knowledgeable lawyer to assist with your defense. To learn how our team can help, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and discuss strategy.