In 2009, California becameone of many states to enact laws restricting the use of mobile phones, or cell phones, while operating a vehicle.
The Three Laws:
1. Ban on Handheld Cell Phones
The first law bans all drivers from using handheld cell phones while operating any kind of vehicle.
2. The Hands-free Cell Phone Law
While the first law completely bans the use of a cell phone that is not hands-free, the second law governs how to use hands-free cell phones while driving.
Drivers 18 and Older
Only drivers over the age of 18 are allowed to use hands-free cell phones while driving. Bluetooth devices, headphones or other earpieces are acceptable, but cannot cover both ears.
Drivers Younger Than 18
Drivers under the age of 18 are not permitted to use a wireless telephone, pager, laptop, or any other electronic communication device to either speak or text while driving. This rule applies whether the device is handheld or hands-free. There are no exceptions for emancipated minors, driving with parents or licensed adults, or even for hands-free devices built into the car. The only exception is that drivers under age 18 may use a wireless device in an emergency situation to call the police, fire, or medical authorities.
3. Ban on Texting While Driving
The California legislature considerstexting while driving so dangerous that they enacted a separate law to specifically prohibiting texting while driving. Under this law, you may not write, send, or read text based communications while driving — this includes text messages, instant messages, and email.
The Exceptions to the Law
There are a few exceptions to the general ban. Handheld cell phones may be used:
- to make an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, medical provider, fire department, or other emergency service agency
- by those operating authorized emergency vehicles, and
- by those operating vehicles on private property.
In 2012, a driver was at a full stop due to road work on a freeway. He picked up his phone to see if he could figure out an alternate route, but a California Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle saw him on his phone and issued a $165 ticket.
The case made it through the lower courts and was finally heard by the California 5th District Appeals Court,who ruled in his favor. The ruling says that while the law prohibits people from talking on cellphones without a hands-free device, cellphone laws do not apply to people looking at a map or dialing a number.
Clearly, there are many ways to fight a cellphone ticket in California, depending on each particular situation. If you have a recent cellphone ticket, contact The Law Offices of Andrew Ritholz for experienced and competent assistance fighting your citation.