New texting law, what an officer can and can’t do


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The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is leading Florida’s Put It Down Focus on Driving campaign to ensure all motorists are aware of the state’s new regulations regarding wireless communications while driving and reminding everyone to never drive distracted.

In conjunction with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association, and AAA – The Auto Club Group, FLHSMV with its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) advises all motorists that beginning July 1, utilizing wireless communications while driving becomes a primary driving offense.

“This law makes Florida roads safer and I am proud to give law enforcement the ability to more proactively enforce safe driving,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Texting and driving are one of the most dangerous driving behaviors and it is every driver’s responsibility to help ensure we all get home safely.”

“Distracted driving is truly a killer. Enforcing the crime of texting while driving as a primary offense, rather than a secondary offense, will now allow law enforcement to enforce the law and save lives in the process,” said Sheriff Mark Hunter, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“This new law will undoubtedly prevent crashes and save lives on Florida’s roadways,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “With every traffic stop, FHP will be educating motorists about the new law and taking the time to remind them of the dangers of driving distracted. We never want a driver to learn the hard way.”

Starting July 1, 2019, Florida motorists can be stopped and cited for texting and driving.

The first violation for drivers is a non-moving offense with no points assessed to the driver’s record. The second violation is a moving violation with three points assessed to the driver’s record.

In most circumstances, Florida Highway Patrol Troopers will issue warnings for texting and driving through December 31, 2019, to provide drivers with additional education of the new law. Exceptions would apply in extremely dangerous driving situations.

Starting October 1, 2019, wireless communications devices can only be used in a hands-free manner when driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area. Drivers will be issued warnings through December 31, 2019. Starting January 1, 2020, drivers will be cited for using any wireless communication devices in a handheld manner in a work zone or school zone.

According to Florida’s Supreme Court, a law enforcement officer cannot request to see your phone without a warrant. If an officer does not obtain a warrant but issues a citation based on texts he read on your phone, the citation could be dismissed and the officer could be disciplined. However, there are circumstances in which an officer could possibly look through a drivers phone, such as an accident involving serious injury or death.

What do you think about the new law?

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