Using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle has been illegal in California since 2009, with additional provisions added to the state's laws as smartphones and devices have become more technologically advanced. Familiarize yourself with the regulations surrounding texting and driving and other types of smartphone use in California. If you do get a citation, consult with a traffic ticket lawyer Sacramento.

What Are the Texting and Driving Laws in California?

Motorists are prohibited from holding any wireless device while driving, even to perform functions such as checking a GPS unless they are using a mounted device or a system integrated within the vehicle by the manufacturer. While adult drivers may use hands-free systems to make phone calls and send voice commands, drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from using even hands-free devices while behind the wheel.

However, drivers do have a few exceptions to this rule. Using a cellphone behind the wheel is allowed only for emergency purposes and when operating your vehicle on private property. Bus drivers can use a wireless device only for emergency or work-related purposes.

Some advocacy groups are pushing for more stringent distracted driving laws. These proposed regulation could potentially ban the use of hands-free devices for adult drivers as well as minors.

What Are the Penalties for a Cell Phone Ticket?

Drivers receive a $20 base fine for the first offense and a $50 base fine for the second offense. However, administrative fees increase the cost of a first offense to at least $150 and at least $250 for a second offense. Cell phone violations do not add points to your California driving record and will not increase your auto insurance rates. Bus drivers will receive a base fine of $250 for the first offense, but do not receive a serious infraction on their commercial driver's license. If you cannot afford a significant fine, explore your legal options about how to fight a cell phone ticket.

A pending law in California, Assembly Bill 47, will add a point to your driving record for second and subsequent cell phone tickets that take place within 36 months of the initial offense. This new penalty will begin in June 2021. If you get more than four points on your record in 12 months, six points in 24 months or eight points in 36 months, the state could consider you a negligent driver and fail to renew your license. Points can also cause a dramatic increase in your auto insurance premium cost. However, you can have a point deducted by taking approved driver education courses.

When Can I Be Stopped for a Texting Violation?

Most texting and driving related infractions are considered primary offenses in California. This means an officer can stop you if you are driving while holding your cell phone, even if you have not committed any other traffic violation. However, use of a wireless, hands-free device is a secondary infraction for drivers younger than 18. This means you can only receive a ticket for that violation if you were pulled over for a separate primary traffic offense.

Contact an Orange County traffic ticket lawyer if you have received a cell phone ticket. He or she can help protect your legal rights and potentially negotiate for lower penalties.

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