Driving While Texting in Ohio
Distracted driving is seen as a threat to traffic safety. One increasingly prevalent distraction is the use of cell phones in vehicles. Nearly every driver has a cell phone available to them while driving, and it seems so easy to quickly use the phone. But even if this is done while stationary at a stop light, using a handheld device for text-based communication while operating a vehicle is illegal in Ohio.
Ohio’s driving while texting law prohibits more than texting. The law makes it illegal to drive a motor vehicle while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication. That means it is also illegal to write, send, or read an email, direct message, or a social media post while driving. The law applies not only to driving on streets but also while driving on any property open to the public for vehicular traffic, like a parking lot.Penalties for Driving While Texting
The possible penalties for Ohio’ driving while texting law depend on the driver’s prior convictions for moving violations within the last year.
- If the driver has no prior convictions for moving violations within the last year, driving while texting is a minor misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine up to $150 and community service for up to 30 hours.
- If the driver has been convicted of one moving violation within the last year, driving while texting is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine up to $250, community service up to 200 hours, and incarceration up to 30 days.
- If the driver has been convicted of two or more moving violations within the last year, driving while texting is a third-degree misdemeanor. The penalties include a fine up to $500, community service up to 200 hours, and incarceration up to 60 days.
For a violation of the texting while driving law, regardless of the number of prior convictions in the last year, two points are assessed to the person’s driver license. The penalties listed above relate to violations of Ohio’s law. Cities in Ohio also have laws which prohibit this conduct, and the cities are permitted to punish violations more severely.
For juveniles, the law is different. The Ohio law makes it illegal for a juvenile to drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device in any manner. A first violation leads to a 60-day driver license suspension, and a second violation leads to a one-year driver license suspension.Contesting a Charge of Driving While Texting
A driver with no moving violations in the last year can typically pay a waiver rather than appearing in court. A driver with one or more moving violations in the last year must appear in court. Any driver charged with driving while texting has the option of pleading Not Guilty to the charge. If the driver pleads Not Guilty, the prosecution must prove the driver’s guilt.
There are defenses to the charge of texting while driving. Some of those defenses are built-into the statute. For example, using a phone for an emergency, typing on the phone to make a phone call, and using a GPS system are all permitted uses of handheld communications devices while driving. Other defenses involve general hurdles to proving the offense which the prosecution faces in any traffic or criminal case. In addition, there are limitations on how a law enforcement officer can investigate the charge.
Whether a driver should contest a charge of driving while texting will depend on that driver’s specific circumstances. Some drivers with no prior moving violations in the last year may decide it’s best to simply pay the waiver (the equivalent of a guilty plea). Other drivers with no prior moving violations may choose to contest the charge to avoid points, to avoid a conviction for a moving violation, or to avoid community service. Drivers with prior moving violations in the last year have an enhanced incentive to contest the charge as the penalties involve higher fines and potential incarceration.Representation for Driving While Texting
If a driver does choose to contest a charge of driving while texting, the Dominy Law Firm can help. Our firm practices exclusively criminal defense, and our lawyers regularly represent clients charged with traffic violations. If you have a case of driving while texting in Columbus or the central Ohio area and would like to discuss representation, you can schedule a free phone consultation by completing a CONTACT FORM or by calling 614-717-1177.