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Understanding distracted driving law in Florida

Distracted driving by itself is not a crime--but certain types of distracted driving are against the law. While it may be legal to eat a hamburger or wrangle your kids in the back seat while driving, certain types of cell phone use are illegal.

In today's post, we outline the basics of Florida's distracted driving law:

What's prohibited

Florida law states that it is illegal to manually type anything into a handheld communication device while driving. This ban extends to text messages, emails and any type of instant message. It's also illegal to read any such messages while driving.

What's allowed

Not all cell phone usage is prohibited while driving in Florida. For example, you are allowed to:

  • Use your hands to operate your GPS,
  • Contact emergency services--even if you have to manually enter the phone number and
  • Communicate on your cell phone using hands-free technology.

Enforcing the law

The police can issue a $20 citation for distracted driving--but only under certain circumstances:

  • If your vehicle is temporarily stopped (e.g., at a traffic light), the above regulations do not apply. The police cannot write you up for texting at a stop.
  • Distracted driving is considered a secondary offense in Florida. This means that an officer cannot pull you over for distracted driving alone. There must be another, primary traffic offense--such as speeding.

If your distracted driving results in an accident--causing injury or death to someone else--you could face criminal charges. In such cases, the law states that certain evidence--such as your cell phone billing records or other testimony related to electronic messaging--may be admissible in court.

If your distracted driving leads to criminal charges, time is of the essence. In order to build the strongest possible case and maximize your chances of acquittal, it's important to seek the help of an experienced defense attorney right away.

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