What You Need to Know About the New Texting and Driving Law in Florida

Every DUI attorney in Tampa knows about the danger drunk drivers present to the public. We also know about the serious legal ramifications for drunk driving arrests. Although drunk driving in America remains an issue, over the years, distracted driving has become a concerning trend as well, especially with motorists between the ages of 16 and 24. 

As of July 1st, 2019, texting while driving in Florida is now a primary offense. With a new bill signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, law enforcement can now pull over motorists that are texting and driving. In this brief article, the criminal defense attorneys at The Rickman Law Firm will discuss the legal implications of this law. We will also answer a few important questions related to the law and discuss what your rights are behind the wheel of your car if you are pulled over while texting. 

What’s the Law?

There’s no mistaking the fact that texting while driving presents certain risks. Florida Statute 316.305 was recently passed to improve roadway safety, prevent crashes, and reduce injuries and deaths on Florida roadways. As the law states:

A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. 

5 Questions Answered About the New Law

Here are five questions Florida motorists have about the new legislature: 

1) What is the penalty for texting while driving?

As of January 1st, 2020, a first-time offender will not receive any points for their traffic violation; however, they will receive a $30 fine. Any further offense will result in three points on your driving record and a $60 fine. If you are in a school or construction zone, these fines and penalties can increase.  

2) Can I talk on my phone while driving?

Yes, motorists can still hold, answer, and talk on their phones while driving (unless in a school or construction zone); however, it’s best to remain safe behind the wheel and wait until you have arrived at your destination before having a conversation. 

3) Can I text in my car when I’m stopped?

If you are at a red light, stop sign, or toll booth, you can send a text message. With that being said, it’s best to get in the habit of not sending text messages while behind the wheel.  

4) Does texting and driving also mean typing in GPS?

It’s still legal to utilize your phone for GPS. However, you should put in your destination before you begin driving to ensure the safety of yourself and other motorists.

5) Does an officer have a right to see my phone?

Law enforcement has no right to access a driver’s cell phone without a warrant. They also have no right to confiscate a phone or obtain the phone without consent from the motorist. 

With this new law, there’s an increased chance that texting and driving can lead to a traffic stop. When pulled over by law enforcement, it’s crucial that you know your rights, including search and seizure laws. If you have been pulled over, never forget your basic rights including your right to speak with an attorney. 

For a free consultation with a DUI defense lawyer in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

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