You may or may not have heard that Ohio passed a law allowing law enforcement to stop drivers for the use of a cell phone while driving. You may have also noticed that you have not heard of anyone getting a citation in this way. That is because, after the law passed, there was a grace period where citations would not be issued. However, that grace period is NOW OVER.
What Can You be Cited For?
According to Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 4511.204:
No person shall operate a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street, highway, or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using, holding, or physically supporting with any part of the person’s body an electronic wireless communications device.
The ORC goes on to list several exceptions, such as if the person is contacting a hospital in an emergency.
What are the Limitations on Law Enforcement?
The ORC makes it a point to say that the law enforcement must visually observe the driver of the vehicle violating the texting while driving law in order to stop the vehicle. Furthermore, the officer cannot search your phone without a warrant, confiscate your device while awaiting a warrant, or obtain consent to search the device through coercion. The law enforcement officer must inform the driver that the driver can decline a search of the device.
What is the Penalty if You are Cited?
The maximum penalty depends on how many times you are cited for distracted driving. These are the penalties in ORC:
- $150.00 fine and 2 points for the first offense in 2 years
- $250.00 fine and 3 points for the second offense in 2 years
- $500.00 and 4 points for 3 or more offenses in 2 years and a possible 90-day suspension of the offender’s driver’s license
The ORC also provides for these fines to double if offense was in a construction zone.
For the first offense ONLY the fine may be substituted for a distracted driving course. This must be approved by the court and follow the process described in the ORC.
Knowing the changes in traffic laws is an important step in protecting yourself from criminal charges as well as protecting others on the road. If you would like legal help facing traffic or other criminal charges, or if you have questions about the changing laws in Ohio, feel free to contact the expert attorneys at Dearie, Fischer & Martinson LLC.