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New Anti-Texting Law on Virginia Highways; July 1, 2013

McGlone Law Firm, P.C., Virginia Defense Attorney

For more information, or for help defending a Reckless Driving or other Serious Traffic Charge in Fairfax County, Virginia, contact Local Fairfax County Reckless Driving and Criminal Traffic Defense Attorneys Paul Liam McGlone at 703-273-2750.


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7/9/2013
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A lot of folks seem to be arguing about the new law, so I am posting the full text here, along with this summary. 

The law prohibits reading or sending any text message, but it has a few curious exceptions.  There is an exception for "any name or number that is stored within the device".   Huh?    So it is ok to text anybody on your contact list??   Is that what it means?   Probably not-- but statutes like this have ambiguities that make them more difficult to enforce.  

Cops may have difficulty getting a conviction on these cases, but that won't stop them from writing the tickets and bringing folks to Court.  Plenty of folks will still pay the tickets rather than coming to court, and it will be hard to justify the expense of bringing an attorney, since the fines are still fairly low:  $125 for a first offense; $250 for a 2nd offense; but it will be a $250 minimum if the texting occurred while driving Recklessly.  

Reckless Driving will still have to be charged based on the driving behavior, but then texting will be an aggravating factor. 

 

HERE IS THE TEXT OF THE AMENDED LAW: 

 

 

CHAPTER 752

An Act to amend and reenact §§ 46.2-868 and 46.2-1078.1 of the Code of Virginia, relating to unlawful use of handheld personal communications devices while driving; penalty.

[H 1907]
Approved April 3, 2013

 

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That §§ 46.2-868 and 46.2-1078.1 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 46.2-868. Reckless driving; penalties.

A. Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article shall be is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. Every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article who, when he committed the offense, (i) was driving without a valid operator's license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation and, (ii) as the sole and proximate result of his reckless driving, caused the death of another, is guilty of a Class 6 felony.

C. The punishment for every person convicted of reckless driving under the provisions of this article who, when he committed the offense, was in violation of § 46.2-1078.1 shall include a mandatory minimum fine of $250.

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

A. It shall be is 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 within the device nor to any caller identification information.

B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to:

1. The operator of any emergency vehicle while he is engaged in the performance of his official duties;

2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;

3. The use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or

4. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.

C. No citation for a violation of this section shall be issued unless the officer issuing such citation has cause to stop or arrest the driver of such motor vehicle for the violation of some other provision of this Code or local ordinance relating to the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a motor vehicle or any criminal statute.

D. A violation of any provision of this section shall constitute is a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of$20 $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $50 $250.

For the purposes of this section, "emergency vehicle" means:

1. Any law-enforcement vehicle operated by or under the direction of a federal, state, or local law-enforcement officer while engaged in the performance of official duties;

2. Any regional detention center vehicle operated by or under the direction of a correctional officer responding to an emergency call or operating in an emergency situation;

3. Any vehicle used to fight fire, including publicly owned state forest warden vehicles, when traveling in response to a fire alarm or emergency call;

4. Any ambulance, rescue, or life-saving vehicle designed or used for the principal purpose of supplying resuscitation or emergency relief where human life is endangered;

5. Any Department of Emergency Management vehicle or Office of Emergency Medical Services vehicle, when responding to an emergency call or operating in an emergency situation;

6. Any Department of Corrections vehicle designated by the Director of the Department of Corrections, when (i) responding to an emergency call at a correctional facility, (ii) participating in a drug-related investigation, (iii) pursuing escapees from a correctional facility, or (iv) responding to a request for assistance from a law-enforcement officer; and

7. Any vehicle authorized to be equipped with alternating, blinking, or flashing red or red and white secondary warning lights pursuant to § 46.2-1029.2.

2.  That the Department of Criminal Justice Services shall make training on the implementation and enforcement of this act available to state and local law-enforcement agencies.


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