Cell Phone Ticket Attorney in Virginia
In 2020, Virginia passed a “hands-free” law and made it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving in Virginia. The law had a delayed enforcement date of January 2021. You can still use a cell phone in the car if you don’t hold it in your hands, such as when using voice-to-text transcription or hands-free GPS directions. If a Virginia police officer sees you holding a device while driving, you can face steep fines and other harsh penalties.
If you have received a ticket for driving while on the phone, Virginia cell phone ticket defense attorney Samantha Upton wants to help. Texting and driving charges are serious matters, and you shouldn’t fight them alone. To learn how Samantha can give you the best chance of a positive outcome, contact Upton Law, PLLC, for a free initial case review.
Can Police Pull You Over for a Cell Phone Violation?
Yes, the police can pull you over for a cell phone violation in Virginia.
Under the state’s previous law, gone are the days when texting and driving was considered a secondary offense, which meant police officers could pull over texting drivers only if they were committing another traffic violation in addition to texting. Now due to overwhelming data illustrating the dangers of distracted driving, Virginia lawmakers have joined at least 22 other states in enacting legislation that makes texting while driving a primary offense.
Enacted on July 1, 2020, the new law – Section 46.2-818.2 – gives Virginia law enforcement the authority to pull over and cite drivers for holding handheld personal communications devices while driving on public highways in the state, even if the motorist is not suspected of any other violations. To give the public time to adjust, Virginia police did not officially begin to enforce the texting and driving ban until January 1, 2021.
Drivers are still permitted to use mounted devices for hands-free navigation and communication while driving. Additionally, the law provides for several exceptions to the texting and driving ban, including:
- Emergency vehicle drivers engaged in official duties
- Drivers whose vehicles are lawfully parked or stopped
- Drivers in the process of reporting an emergency
- Drivers using amateur or citizens’ band radios
- Drivers managing traffic incidents on behalf of the Department of Transportation
How Does a Cell Phone Ticket Impact Your Driving Record?
Texting while driving is an infraction under Virginia law and is considered a moving violation. As a result, getting a ticket for cell phone use while driving will result in three points against your license. If convicted, you will also be responsible for paying a fine and your insurance company will likely increase your premiums.
If the officer who pulls you over decides that your actions put the lives of others at risk, you could be charged with reckless driving and illegal cell phone use. In Virginia, reckless driving is typically prosecuted as a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to $2,500 in fines, six demerit points, and other penalties.
Penalties for Driving While Holding a Cell Phone
The potential penalties for a texting while driving conviction in Virginia vary depending on the circumstances. For instance:
- First-time offenses – If it’s your first time receiving a ticket for driving while holding a cell phone in Virginia, the standard fine is $125.
- Subsequent offenses – If you have been ticketed before, each subsequent texting and driving offense will result in a $250 fine.
- Work zone offenses – If you are convicted of texting while driving in a highway work zone, there is a mandatory fine of $250
- Reckless driving offenses – If you are charged with reckless driving and illegal cell phone use, you can face between $250 and $2,500 in fines, a six-month license suspension, and up to 12 months in jail.
Since Virginia’s hands-free driving law went into effect, hundreds of drivers have been cited for using handheld devices while driving. According to Virginia police, more than 1,900 drivers were convicted during the first six months the law was in effect.
Common Traffic Violations Involving Handheld Device Use
The statewide hands-free law covers more than just texting while driving. Common types of behaviors that involve the illegal use of handheld devices include:
- Holding your phone to initiate GPS
- Picking up your phone to answer or hang up a call
- Changing the song on your music app
- Plugging your phone in to charge
- Picking up your phone to read a text message or view a notification
- Holding an electronic communications device for any reason at all
How to Fight a Cell Phone Ticket
If you receive a texting and driving ticket in Virginia, you may be tempted to simply pay the fine and move on with your life. However, you should know that by doing so, you are effectively pleading guilty to the citation and accepting the consequences that go along with it. You should also know that there’s another way to approach the situation.
With the help of a Virginia traffic ticket lawyer, you may be able to have your ticket reduced or dismissed entirely. Some common cell phone ticket defenses that could apply to your case include:
- You were using the device to communicate an emergency or some other reasonable and lawful purpose
- You were using the device while your vehicle was parked or stationary
- The police officer was mistaken about your cell phone use
- The police officer who issued the ticket did not have sufficient probable cause to pull you over in the first place
Talk to an Experienced Cell Phone Ticket Lawyer for Free
Upton Law, PLLC, is a woman-led Virginia law firm with extensive experience handling traffic ticket and criminal defense cases. Contact Samantha Upton today for a free initial consultation to discuss your ticket and your best legal options.