When you get caught holding a cell phone in CA now, it can be serious, and for truckers and other commercial vehicle drivers, it could be a DOT FMCSA “serious offense.”
Illegal Use of a Cell Phone in a Commercial Vehicle
Unfortunately, it’s true. Just holding your cell phone while driving is a violation. What’s more, it could be a costly violation if convicted.
CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23123.5, Public Offenses 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.”
For this reason, it is wise to get your cell phone mounted to the dashboard within easy reach or install a hands-free system. They even have apps that can speak to your electronic logging device (ELD) through Alexa or Siri to make voice-activated calls and send texts.
It used to be, when you got a cell phone ticket, you just went to the county clerk and paid, or you paid your ticket online. That is not advisable now since the CA Assembly passed AB-47. It is now law. That means the DMV is notified of a second paid fine or conviction. They assess one negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) point and send a notification of a violation to the DOT FMCSA, which considers it a “serious offense.”
Whereas, if you are convicted in CA, you will pay around $250 for a second cell phone offense, at the FMCSA level, the driver is given a serious violation.
However, if you have a previous cell phone conviction on your record, some states send it to the FMCSA, and some don’t. It’s largely hit or miss trying to guess whether a state sent one or not. Your best option is to check your Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) report online.
It’s wise to do this twice a year anyway. Similar names with similar DOT #s could get misfiled. You don’t want to get penalized for another John Smith or Jose Gonzalez’s record, do you? Of course, not. Especially when a second serious offense within three years could get you a 60-day driver’s disqualification, can you afford a two-month unpaid vacation? Most of us can’t.
What used to be an approximate $250 fine with no NOTS points in CA, is also a serious offense for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. You must consult a traffic attorney to see if it is feasible to dispute the ticket. Truthfully, the CDL holder does not have much choice and must dispute it and hope for the best. What’s more, if a traffic attorney tells you there’s no hope, you might want to get a second opinion.
Think about it like this. How much could you earn in two months driving? How much would a traffic attorney charge you to challenge the ticket in court? There’s a massive difference, and the conviction will go into your PSP, which could get you fired or lose you benefits. What fleet manager is going to leave an empty driver’s seat for two months? Now, what do you think your chances are of getting hired by a reputable trucking firm with a serious offense on your PSP?
Don’t risk it. Consult a CA traffic attorney with traffic court experience. Hiring “Cousin Vinnie,” the divorce lawyer, would be better than going in alone, but just barely. An experienced traffic attorney knows their way around traffic court, which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on TV or in the movies.
What’s more, they’ll typically give you a free initial consultation and work for a flat fee. Therefore, you’ll know precisely how much it will cost.
Fight Your Cell Phone Violation in a Commercial Vehicle Ticket in Roseville, CA
When you get stopped out there on I-80 heading into Sacramento in your commercial vehicle with a cell phone in your hand, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
Remember, there is no guarantee we can get it dismissed or get a no-point conviction that is essentially a parking ticket, but we could. We have been very successful in negotiating a compromise.
The 2019-2021 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdfCVC Section 23123.5, Public Offenses