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Jacksonville & St. Augustine Lawyers > Blog > General > Motorists will Be Ticketed for Texting While Driving in Florida

Motorists will Be Ticketed for Texting While Driving in Florida

Beginning January 1, 2020, motorists in Florida will be ticketed if police catch them texting while driving. The law went into effect in July of 2019, but drivers were given a learning period to get used to the changes and understand what constitutes prohibited behavior. That meant, for the past 5 months, law enforcement officers were only issuing warnings to violators. Now, they’ll be issuing citations.

Why Was the Law Established?

Florida lawmakers passed the texting while driving ban to prevent traffic accidents and make roads safer for all. Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous distractions for motorists, as it requires them to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and minds off of driving.

For an officer to have cause to issue a ticket under the new law, they must observe drivers engaged in prohibited behavior.

Some indicators of texting while driving include:

  • Sitting at a traffic light after it has turned green
  • Driving above or below the speed limit
  • Weaving between lanes

If an officer sees any of the driving behavior mentioned above (or other questionable conduct), they might pull up next to the vehicle to see if the driver is on their phone. If they are, they’ll be cited.

What Is a Communication Device?

Under the new law, a person operating a vehicle cannot hold a communication device in their hands to type, send, or read messages.

Florida Statute 316.305 defines a communication device as one that can:

  • Send or receive text or character-based messages,
  • Access or store data, or
  • Connect to the Internet or communications service

Communication devices could include cell phones, tablets, laptops, or electronic games.

Are There Exceptions to the Law?

Although the statute bans holding a communication device to send or receive messages, exceptions do exist.

The law does not apply when a motorist is:

  • Stopped at a red light
  • Using hands-free technology
  • Voice texting
  • Using navigation
  • Reporting an accident or suspicious criminal activity

The exceptions do not apply when the driver is in a school or work zone (unless they are using-hands free technology). Holding a phone for any reason in these areas is an offense that can be ticketed. Under Florida Statute 316.306, a work zone is an area where construction personnel are present or are operating equipment on or near the road a person is traveling on.

Can Cops Take Phones from Suspected Violators?

Under the law, if an officer suspects a person was texting while driving, they must let them know they can decline a search of their phone.

Additionally, law enforcement can’t:

  • Access the device without a warrant,
  • Take the device while waiting to receive a warrant, or
  • Coerce the driver into letting them search the phone

What Are the Penalties for Texting While Driving?

If an officer finds that a motorist was using their phone or another communication while driving, they will issue a citation.

The penalties for a conviction vary depending on where the driver was operating their vehicle or whether or not they have any prior offenses or:

  • First offense:
    • $30 fine, plus court costs and other fees
  • Second and subsequent offense (within 5 years of the previous):
    • $60 fine, plus court costs and other fees
    • 3 points assessed to the driver’s license
  • Any offense when driving in a school or work zone:
    • $60, plus court costs and other fees
    • 3 points assessed to the driver’s license

If an officer suspected you were texting while driving and issued a traffic ticket in St. Augustine, Albaugh Law Firm is ready to help fight the citation. Call us at 904-471-3434 or contact us online today.

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