Prosecutors in Bakersfield and Shafter started licking their chops the
moment that Governor Brown signed a much-tougher cellphone law.
Assembly Bill 1785 “update[s] our archaic laws on the issue” and helps ensure that the government does its part
“to make sure drivers are focused on the road,” according
to the measure’s sponsor Bill Quirk (D-Hayward). Last year, about
1,200 collisions in California involved cellphone-induced distracted driving.
Law enforcement also hailed the measure. CHP Officer Florentino Olivera
predicted that the new law “will help us a lot,” because officers
believe that more people are taking pictures and posting on social media
than talking or texting.
The base fines remain the same ($20 plus penalty assessments for a first
conviction and $50 plus penalty assessments for a subsequent conviction).
When the Legislature passed the cellphone laws in 2006 and 2008, smartphones
weren’t quite as commonplace as they are today, so the laws only
banned talking and texting. Despite aggressive enforcement, the number
of citations kept dropping, so most legislators felt the need to act.
The good news about
AB 1785 is that it eliminates the need for “textalyzers” and other
highly-invasive enforcement methods. But that may be about the only good
news, because using an app, surfing the web, reading a map and other non-prohibited
uses are often the best defense under the
However, all is certainly not lost. The state still has the burden of proof,
and even under the broader law, it is not illegal to hold a phone and
look at a screen. To support a conviction, there must be evidence beyond
a reasonable doubt that the driver was “holding and operating”
a cellphone. That one provision may be more than enough to get a “not
Getting Legal Help
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