If you haven’t heard, California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5 will take effect on January 1st 2009. For those of you who don’t happen to have a California Vehicle Code book sitting on your lap like I do, VC 23123.5 is the brand new “texting” law that will prohibit you from text messaging while driving.
It seems that the government is keeping up with the times and using technology as a basis to stop you and cite you with a big fat ticket. What a bummer.
How much money are we talking? The answer depends on where you get cited for the violation.
According to VC 23123.5(d) the base fine for a first time offender is about $20. If you’re busted again, the base fine for each subsequent is about $50.
Not so bad? Think again.
The base fine doesn’t take into account the additional fees and penalty assessments that each county might tack on to the base fine. Depending on the court, the total cost of the ticket can be anywhere from three to four times the amount of the base fine.
Another consequence that other people might not readily realize is that this new law gives the cops a new justifiable reason to pull you over and sniff around for illegal activity such as driving on a suspended license.
Generally, before a cop pull you over, he needs “reasonable suspicion” to pull you over and cite. In other words, the cop has to reasonably think that the person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity based on specific and articulable facts and inferences. If the cop can describe that it appeared to him that you were looking down and fiddling with the buttons on a cell phone, that testimony might be enough to make the traffic stop a legal one in the eyes of the court.
And why is that important?
Because if a court finds that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to contact you while you were driving, then the court can punish the police by suppressing any evidence that was recovered after the stop. That means that if the cop searched your car after an illegal stop, all of the evidence recovered after the stop, such as possession of illegal drugs, can’t be used against you in trial.
The moral of the Story?
1) Don’t drive while texting. It’s an expensive ticket and not worth the risk of getting into a car accident.
2) Don’t drive while texting if you’ve got something illegal in your car. While I in no way encourage you to commit any crimes ever. It’s certainly not a good idea to give the cops a reason to stop you and give them a chance to snoop around while they give you a ticket because you had to text your boyfriend or girlfriend some funny inside joke that could have waited until you got home.
Wallin & Klarich has been keeping up with the changes and additions in the law for the past 30 years. If you or a loved on is accused of a crime, please call us 888-749-0034 and visit us at www.wklaw.com.