Distracted driving is a major problem that has only gotten worse with the advent of cell phones and smartphones. Texting while driving remains one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, causing thousands of injuries and deaths every year. For this reason, North Carolina has outlawed texting while driving.
However, not all forms of cell phone use while driving are illegal. Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver was texting while driving can be difficult but exceptions to the law exist, which may open the door to possible defenses. Getting a traffic ticket can be stressful, which is why the criminal defense team of Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, is here to help.
What Is North Carolina’s Texting While Driving Law?
Drivers over the age of 18 can generally use their phones to make voice calls in North Carolina. It is illegal for anyone to drive while using a phone to text or email. That prohibition covers the following:
- Manually entering multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person
- Reading any electronic mail 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
North Carolina is a “primary” law state, meaning that law enforcement can stop you and issue a ticket solely for violating this statute. This is different from so-called “secondary” law states where the police must have another primary reason to pull you over.
Are There Exceptions To The Law?
The ban on texting while driving does not apply to the following situations:
- The driver is lawfully parked or stopped. “Stopped” includes being stopped at a traffic light.
- The driver is any of the following individuals and is texting while in the performance of their official duties: a law enforcement officer; a member of a fire department; or the operator of a public or private ambulance.
- The driver is using a factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning system (GPS) for navigation purposes.
- The driver is using voice-operated technology.
What Are The Punishments For Violating The Law?
A driver who violates this law is guilty of a traffic infraction and can be fined $100.00 and court costs. The driver will not have driver’s license points added to their driving record, nor will they have insurance points assessed against them.
But the penalty is more severe for school bus drivers. A school bus driver convicted of texting while driving faces a Class 2 misdemeanor instead of a traffic infraction. The fine is at least $100.00. Commercial drivers are prohibited from texting while driving under federal trucking regulations.
Is The Law Different For Drivers Under The Age Of 18?
If you’re under the age of 18, you’re not allowed to use your cell phone for any non-emergency reason unless the car is stopped. The law does allow a driver under the age of 18 to use a cell phone for the sole purpose of communicating with his or her parent, guardian, or spouse.
The penalty for this specific law is $25.00. No license or insurance points, or court costs, are assessed against the driver.
Are There Legal Defenses To Texting While Driving?
Nearly half of adults admit to texting while driving, and over half of high school seniors do so. Many North Carolina criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors have noted the difficulty of enforcing the state’s ban on texting while driving. Being cited is not the same thing as being convicted in court, and many drivers who have challenged their tickets have had their cases thrown out.
The numerous exceptions to the law give drivers several possible defenses, depending on their circumstances. If you were lawfully stopped or parked when you were texting, for instance, you’re not in violation of the law. Similarly, if you were typing an address into your GPS system, then you were not “texting” as defined by the statute. The law also does not prevent someone from searching for contacts on their phone. Because the facts of each case determine the outcome, it’s important to notify your lawyer of all relevant details concerning your traffic stop and cell phone usage.
It’s difficult for a police officer to determine that someone using a cell phone is texting, emailing, or reading a text or email. Phone records could theoretically be used to prove someone was emailing or texting while driving. In reality, however, the state is unlikely to expend its limited resources to obtain a search warrant or subpoena every time a driver gets pulled over. That means drivers have a good chance of fighting their tickets in court.
How Can Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, Help Me?
Texting while driving is illegal. Despite the difficulty that some prosecutors have had proving it, you should never underestimate the severity of a traffic ticket. This is especially true if you’re a bus driver or a commercial driver. If you are cited for texting while driving, you could be facing potentially more serious legal consequences.
No matter what kind of traffic ticket you have, Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, is ready to help you. Our team understands North Carolina’s traffic statutes and can advise you of your legal rights if you have received a citation for texting while driving. We will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your traffic stop and answer any questions you may have about your ticket. Where possible, we will dispute the charges against you and attempt to have your case dismissed.
Let Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, discuss your legal options with you. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation.