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Tell It To The Judge

There is evidence that peace officers in Kern County may have adopted a “write first and ask questions later” attitude towards cell phone tickets.

Modesto police celebrated Distracted Driving Awareness Month by writing over 300 cell phone law tickets, most of them for texting and driving. But in addition to texting, officers have apparently written citations to drivers who were browsing social media posts, using a GPS map, and performing other related tasks. Modesto police officer Brian Ferguson acknowledged that cell phone use is “ubiquitous” and “people believe that they can multitask,” but that cell phone use while driving is illegal.

“If your vehicle is on a roadway and in gear, you cannot use the cellphone with your hands,” he stated.

Enforcing the Cell Phone Law

Officer Ferguson’s assessment may very well be in line with the Legislature’s intent when it wrote VC 23123.5. But his interpretation is not consistent with what the law says or how courts have interpreted it. The law makes it illegal to “write, send, or read a text-based communication,” a phrase that is defined as “using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person using a text-based communication.” Web-surfing is not covered by the law, and it is also not illegal to use a GPS map. Two years ago, a Fresno appeals court specifically ruled that such behavior was unwise but not illegal under VC 23123.5.

All that being said, it is never a good idea to argue with the officer during a traffic stop. It is almost impossible to “argue your way out of a ticket,” and believe me, saying the wrong thing can make it a lot worse. Sidewalk litigation only exposes the officers to danger from oncoming cars and, quite frankly, annoys them. So, even on the off-chance that the officer is clearly wrong, leave the legal arguments to an experienced attorney.

Getting Legal Help

The aggressive attorneys at Bigger & Harman, APC, are committed to giving individuals a voice when dealing with speeding and traffic tickets. Call today at 661-349-9300 or email attorney@markbigger.com to receive the personal professional attention you deserve. En español, llame al 661-349-9755.