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The Breakdown of California Bill 1785

CA Bill 1785

CA Bill 1785, signed into law by Governor Brown on 26 September 2016, took effect 1 January 2017. Although the legislation has stricter wording on the use of handheld devices, three groups are not happy with the bill’s wording. The first group is the group of concerned citizens that believe the bill does not go far enough to penalize distracted drivers from using handheld devices due to the base fine of only $20 for first-time offenders and a $50 base fine for subsequent offenders and it is still a non-moving violation with no Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points, the people under 18 years of age that are restricted from using even hands-free devices that in some cases are standard equipment in new cars, and the truckers who have long used CB radios in their trucks to communicate with other truckers while on the road to break up monotony and some to conduct business, believe the bill’s wording will infringe on their ability to continue doing that. The focus of the revision was to prevent or decrease the number of catastrophic injuries and deaths on CA’s highway due to distracted drivers and force drivers to put down their phones while driving or have their phones mounted into their dashboards so that a simple swipe will activate it for hands-free use.

CVC 23124 a Product of Bill 1785

CVC 23124 makes it unlawful for anyone under 18 years of age to use even a hands-free device while driving, but restricts a law enforcement officer (LEO) from pulling someone over to determine if they are under eighteen and using a hands-free device, but not from pulling them over if they observe them using a handheld device to make a call (unless in the case of emergency), sending, reading, or writing a text, recording a video, or checking GPS or a post on social media, which applies to everyone regardless of age. Even picking up or holding a phone is grounds for a ticket. But, how would a LEO determine if someone under 18 is using a hands-free device just by observing them? That individual could be singing along with the radio or talking to themselves. It appears some of the wording for Bill 1785 and the laws that sprung from it, lack teeth or were not well thought out to preclude interpretation.

Does CVC 23123.5 Restrict the Use of a CB Radio?

Since a portion of Bill 1785 is CVC 23123.5, which states, “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.” it would seem to imply that use of a CB radio, which is not configured to permit hands-free operations in a motor vehicle is not legal. When asked the specific question, “Does CVC 23123.5 restrict the use of a CB Radio while driving?” CA Highway Patrol (CHP) officials said, “...the law was NOT meant for CB users. But it depends on the officer.” Any law that is written so that the discretion of a LEO is the basis for enforcement is in some people’s opinion, not worth the paper it is written on.

The Issue with the Base Fine

Despite the many who believe $20 and $50 is not a deterrent to handheld device use, those are just the base fine before the state and county assessments, fees, and surcharges are added, which brings those totals to $162 for a first conviction and $285 for any subsequent conviction. Admittedly, these are still not in line with some European and Asian countries where the fines start at $1000 and go up from there, it can be a deterrent for low-income earners and quite possibly destroy their credit if they cannot afford to pay. However, there is still the issue of it being a non-moving violation with no NOTS points assessed for a conviction. Some would ask, “How is using a handheld device while driving not a moving violation?” Why isn’t eating a cheeseburger while driving a moving violation? It too is a distraction for the driver.

Traffic Ticket Defense Lawyers

When you have questions about Bill 1785, distracted driving, under-aged use of a hands-free device while driving, need legal assistance In Kern, Kings, or Fresno County, or you have an arraignment in traffic court in Bakersfield, Delano, Tulare, Visalia, Fresno, or any court in Central Valley call Bigger & Harman, 661-349-9300. Or email: attorney@markbigger.com to arrange a FREE phone consultation or office visit.

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