While Florida’s texting and driving law originally went into effect back in July, Florida drivers were given a six-month grace period to adapt to the new law before officers began issuing tickets. All that changes on January 1, 2020. Starting with the new year, law enforcement officers will begin giving citations to drivers who text while their cars are in motion.
An experienced personal injury attorney in South Florida can offer insight into the nuances of the new law. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the Florida law –
1. How Does the New Law Differ from the Old?
Under the old law, distracted driving was considered a secondary offense, meaning the driver had to commit some other moving violation before being stopped and ticketed. The new law changes that. It makes texting while driving a primary violation. This means that police can pull over and ticket South Florida drivers solely for texting while the vehicle is moving.
2. What are the Penalties?
The first offense is a non-moving traffic violation (no points) and a $30 file, plus applicable court costs.
The second and subsequent offenses within 5 years is a moving violation (3 points) and a $60 fine. Again, remember the fines do not include court costs or other fees that may be imposed by the clerk of court.
3. Can I Hold the Phone to Talk While Driving?
Technically, drivers can still hold a phone in their hands to talk, although this is not recommended. However, school zones and construction/work zones are hands free areas, meaning you cannot hold your phone. Penalties could include $60 fines, court costs and 3 points added to your driver’s license.
4. Can I Text While at a Stop Light?
Police officers can only stop a driver for texting while driving when the car is in motion. They cannot ticket you for texting at a stop light. However, a driver could be cited for impeding the flow of traffic if they are required to be in motion and are distracted by their phone. The best thing to do is wait to reach your destination before texting.
5. How Does Law Enforcement Work?
Officers are not allowed to review a Florida motorist’s phone without their permission. In fact, the new law requires the officer to inform the motorist of their right to decline a search of his or her device. However, in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury, the driver’s cell phone records or testimony of or written statements from the police may be admissible in a court of law to determine if the driver violated Florida law.
The best advice that a personal injury attorney in Florida can provide is that it is in everyone’s best interests to simply hang up and drive. There is no text message that is worth endangering yourself, your passengers or fellow motorists. Distracted driving should be avoided at all costs.