Virginia's New Texting While Driving Laws

On July 1, 2013 several new laws will affect Virginia Drivers. The most well known change involves texting while driving. Presently texting while driving is a secondary offense. After July 1, texting while driving will be a primary offense. This means an officer will be able to effectuate a traffic stop or "pull over" a driver if the officer sees the driver texting.

A person convicted of texting while driving will receive a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fine for subsequent charges. If the driver is texting and driving recklessly there is a mandatory $250 fine.

Specifically the new law reads as follows :

§ 46.2-1078.1. Use of handheld personal communications devices in certain motor vehicles; exceptions; penalty.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:

1. Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or

2. Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored in the device nor to any caller identification information.

The law does not apply If the driver is lawfully parked or stopped. The law also does not apply to "factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS)."

Washington DC, Maryland and 39 other states already consider texting a primary driving offense. Washington DC issued more than one million dollars in fines for handheld phone use in the last year. Unlike DC and Maryland the Virginia law still allows drivers to use their hands to make phone calls and get directions using a smartphone’s Global Positioning Satellite capabilities. Therefore aggressive defense of texting accusation will require the Commonwealth to prove that a device was not being used for a lawful purpose.

Other new laws affect learners permits, DUI penalties and Moped Scooter drivers. In the past suspended drivers have been able to operate Mopeds with virtual impunity. Under new laws moped operators must carry a valid form of identification.

If you have been issued a citation for texting while driving please consider contacting Richmond criminal defense attorney Vaughan Jones as an option to fight the charge.

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