What Is the Law for Texting and Driving in Virginia?
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Virginia Code § 46.2-1078.1 states that it is unlawful for anyone to text while driving in the state of Virginia.
Texting while driving is considered a primary offense, meaning that a police officer can pull someone over for texting while driving, even if you have committed no other moving violations or broken any other laws. The state of Virginia has taken a strict stance on texting while driving.
Law for Texting and Driving in Virginia
Residents of Virginia may not know all the types of conduct banned with regard to texting, and cell phone usage, while driving in the state of Virginia. Virginia’s texting and driving ban is broad and covers a great deal of usage of a cell phone while driving.
Essentially, you are prohibited from sending a text message, reading a text message, reading or sending an email, or any other type of message while driving. This is a strict law, and a police officer has the right to stop you and ticket you immediately for no other reason other than you were texting and driving.
You are, however, able to read or send a text message if you are “lawfully parked or stopped.” Therefore, if you are completely stopped, then you are able to send or read a text message or email message. It is possible that this could be interpreted to apply to a red light if you are 100% stopped. However, if you are habitually checking your phone for text messages at a red light, then chances are you will likely pick it up to glance at it while you are driving as well. You can absolutely get a ticket for that from law enforcement.
When You Can Use Your Phone in the Car
As of January 2019, the state of Virginia will allow you to use your phone to read directions on an app for GPS purposes, and also will allow you to stream music. However, this becomes a bit of a legal gray area, as a law enforcement officer will not know if you are looking at your cell phone for GPS purposes or for texting purposes. Additionally, from a safety point of view, checking your GPS while driving could be considered reckless driving depending on the actions of the driver during the time they were reading the GPS information on the cell phone.
The Penalties in Virginia for Texting and Driving
A first-time offense for texting and driving in Virginia is a $125 fine, according to VA § 46.2-1078.1. Subsequent offenses are a $250 fine. Texting while driving is considered a pre-payable offense in the state of Virginia. You may pay the fine and avoid any court dates. However, if you pay the fine, you are essentially admitting guilt, and therefore, pleading guilty to the charge. Any subsequent offenses regarding texting and driving will include higher fees. Additionally, paying these fines results in the Department of Motor Vehicles issuing points against your driver’s license.
However, Virginia prosecutors have actually filed reckless driving charges against a driver who “probably” was reading a text message during an accident. While those charges were dismissed, it shows that law enforcement, as well as prosecutors, are seriously attempting to charge someone who is texting and driving with a reckless driving charge. If you were hurt in a car accident because the other driver was texting and driving, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
If You Were Not Texting
If a police officer pulls you over and tickets you for texting and driving, but you were not texting, you should consider visiting with a defense lawyer before paying the fine. The burden of proof remains on the state of Virginia and the law enforcement officer to prove that you were texting and driving. The state must prove the following:
- You were, in fact, operating a moving motor vehicle on a public road; and
- You either sent or read a text message, email message, or another similar message while behind the wheel of a moving motor vehicle.
If the state of Virginia cannot meet this burden of proof, then the case will be dismissed.
If a Police Officer Demands to See Your Cell Phone
A police officer does not have the right to demand that you hand over your cell phone to see if you were texting or emailing while driving. A law enforcement officer does not have the right to access to your cell phone, and if he or she asks, you should say no.
Contact the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC Today
If you have been injured due to someone texting and driving, you should contact a personal injury lawyer at the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC at (571) 229-1800 or online today for your free consultation.