Often times while driving, it is tempting to pick up your phone to read or send a text message. Starting now, people will have to fight that urge unless they want to be subject to a $500 fine. Distracted driving is the cause of tens of thousands of accidents per year, sometimes causing serious injury or even death. In an attempt to eliminate this problem and make for safer roadways, Governor Holcomb signed into law House Bill 1070. This bill significantly expands the previous law concerning distracted driving.
Previously, the law stated that a person may not use a telecommunications device to type, transmit, or read any electronic messages while driving. Predictably, this was a very difficult law for police officers to enforce, as it was nearly impossible for the officer to ascertain if the person on the phone was actually sending or reading a text while driving. Now, however, the statute has been broadened significantly. The new statute, IC 9-21-8-59, now reads:
“….[A] person may not hold or use a telecommunications device while operating a motor vehicle.
“….[A] telecommunications device may be used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology.
“….[A] telecommunications device may be used or held to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.
“….[A] police officer may not, without the consent of the person:
- Confiscate a telecommunications device for the purpose of determining compliance with this section;
- Confiscate a telecommunications device and retain it as evidence pending trial for a violation of this section; or
- Extract or otherwise download information from a telecommunications device for a violation of this section unless:
- The police officer has probable cause to believe that the telecommunications device has been used in the commission of a crime;
- The information is extracted or otherwise downloaded under a valid search warrant; or
- Otherwise authorized by law.”
The take home point of the new statute? Unless you are dialing 911 to report a real emergency, you cannot be holding your phone while driving, period. The statute is no longer limited by the prohibited conduct of texting or checking email. The new statute provides an umbrella law that even holding a cell phone or other electronic device is grounds for the police to pull you over and issue a Class C infraction, which carries a $500 fine. This is true even when the vehicle is stopped at a stop sign or at a red light. The hope is that individuals will utilize hands free or Bluetooth technology to remain more focused on the road.
It is important to note that the only penalty currently in place for this offense is the $500 fine. Starting July 1, 2021, however, the BMV can add points to your license if you are found guilty of distracted driving. This can lead to a suspension of a driver’s license if enough points accumulate. It has yet to be determined how many points will be assessed for a violation of this statute.
If you have been ticketed for this offense or have additional questions about this change in the law, call the experienced Indianapolis Criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower. We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org