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Gotta Catch 'Em All

Observers predict that the obsession over Pokémon Go in Lamont and Shafter may last until the end of next week, but in the meantime, is it legal to hunt for virtual prey while driving?

The on-the-go smartphone game may have been responsible for a multi-car pileup accident in Los Angeles, but no one really knows for sure. Officials have definitely heard the stories from other parts of the country – like an Oregon man who was stabbed while playing – and are concerned that the same types of things could happen in California. So far, most of the incidents have been relatively minor, like a huge crowd of people looking for Pikachu on a pier in Santa Monica and a few scattered trespassing complaints.

LAPD Cmdr. Mike Parker Tweeted “Please don’t #PokemonGO while you are driving. Pull over, or bring a friend.”

Cellphone Law and Its Application

To answer the question we posed earlier: it is not technically illegal to play Pokémon Go while driving, but officers are very aggressive when it comes to cellphone use, so it is not unusual to see citations issued for people who are viewing pictures, surfing the web, checking their social media accounts, playing games, viewing apps, and doing anything other than talking or texting on their cellphones.

The applicable cellphone law (VC 23123.5) prohibits “using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.” The key phrase is very broadly defined as “using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person,” but that definition still excludes almost anything other than texting, emailing, or instant messaging.

Besides the narrow wording, another issue with VC 23123.5 tickets is that the officer must prove that the person was either sending or viewing a text-based message while driving. Vehicle Code violations are “infractions” and not technically criminal cases, so at least in theory, drivers could be required to testify against themselves by showing the judge their text or email logs, because the Fifth Amendment only applies in criminal matters. The issue has not come up yet, but it’s only a matter of time before it does.

Getting Legal Help

The aggressive lawyers at Bigger & Harman, APC, are committed to giving individuals a voice when dealing with speeding and traffic tickets. Call today at 661-859-1177 or email attorney@markbigger.com to receive the personal professional attention you deserve. En español, llame al 661-376-0214.