Is Texting While Driving Illegal in Virginia? What You Need to Know
Thousands of people die every year as a result of vehicle crashes related to texting and driving—which is a significant highway safety issue. In fact, in 2016 alone, 3,450 deaths occurred as a result of distracted driving. Let’s explore how the law in Virginia regards texting while driving.
Is Texting While Driving Illegal in Virginia?
Each state has its own distracted driving laws. There has been a law banning texting while driving in Virginia since 2007, which Virginia considers a primary law. However, Virginia has begun to take this issue way more seriously due to the rise in deaths related to driver distractions. According to the Code of Virginia, it is “unlawful for any person, while driving a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth, to hold a handheld personal communications device.”
This law applies to both teenage drivers as well as adult drivers. The law bans drivers under the age of 18 from using cell phones for both social media purposes and calling, but it bans texting for drivers of all ages.
Can You Be Arrested for Texting While Driving?
Virginia considers texting while driving a primary offense. This means that at any time while you are driving and texting at the same time, a police officer on duty can pull you over, even if you have not committed any other offense. However, this does not necessarily mean that you will get arrested. It is a traffic infraction which is only punishable by fine. You will not get arrested at that very moment, but it may happen if you choose to defy the officer’s instructions—which is strongly advised against. It is also illegal to text and drive in school and work zones—which are considered “hands-free” zones.
Do You Receive a Ticket for Texting While Driving?
The first offense for texting while driving carries a $125 fine (plus court costs) and $250 for every offense after that. Depending on the state, the range is very wide. However, if you crash and it involves the injury or death of another person, the consequences could be much greater than just a ticket or fine. In some states, there is no ban against texting while driving. These include Texas and Arizona. Also, depending on the state, you are legally allowed to make calls and talk to people via cell phone. However, this is not the case with Virginia.
How Can They Prove You Were Texting While Driving?
If a law enforcement officer pulls you over for texting while driving, it’s probably because the officer saw you in the act. A police officer cannot ask you to hand over your phone, nor can they look at your messages or social media to see messages you sent. This would be an invasion of your right to privacy. However, police officers are highly trained to identify a driver who is texting and/or typing while driving. As such, their testimony is admissible as evidence by the court. This is because it is generally extremely hard to prove if someone was texting while driving.
In addition, if you were driving in a densely populated area, there is a high chance that there are security cameras on just about every street corner to monitor activity. If you lie and deny that you were texting while driving, you will only risk getting yourself into more serious trouble. Though proving this is very difficult, most people do end up admitting to using a mobile device while operating a vehicle.
Should You Use a Lawyer if You’re Accused of Texting While Driving?
This depends on how much money you are willing to spend. If an officer wrongfully accuses you of texting while driving, then it may be beneficial to seek out legal counsel to defend yourself from penalties. In Virginia, paying the fee online for texting while driving is not an option, meaning you have to show up in court. You can choose whether you want to pay your fine or attempt to get it dismissed by appearing in court with a professional attorney at your side.
The Decker Law Firm has highly-experienced attorneys who are here to help you out of almost every situation—including those related to texting while driving. Our areas of expertise include personal injury, criminal defense, and traffic accident/DUI. We even offer a free, complimentary consultation to determine what is the best course of action to take regarding your specific case. Our experienced attorneys will take a careful look at your case and help you work out what your next move should be.
If you want to learn more about how you can avoid getting charged with a ticket related to texting while driving and about highway safety, head to our website today and schedule your completely free consultation!