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Should I Fight a Commercial Driver’s Cell Phone Ticket in Woodland, CA or Yolo County Courthouse?

undefinedUp until recently, you could get away with just paying the fine for a commercial driver’s cell phone ticket because it was not a moving violation, and the DMV didn’t send a notice to the FMCSA. 

Now that the DMV is mandated to assess negligent operator treatment system (NOTS) points, 1.5 for a commercial driver if convicted for a second commercial driver’s cell phone ticket, you must challenge even the first.

There are two reasons for that. One is, your first ticket might be easier to get a dismissal for, and two, what if the DMV sends a notice to the DOT FMCSA for your first ticket conviction? Even though they are not mandated to do that, they could. 

The FMCSA Mobile Phone Fact Sheet says the penalty for driver “can be up to $2,750.” It doesn’t specify for the first or second. However, it does say, “Multiple violations of the prohibition of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV can result in a driver disqualification by FMCSA.”   

CA Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 23123 — The Commercial Driver’s Cell Phone Ticket

CVC Section 23123.5Driving Offenses describes the cell phone ticket and penalties, though not directly the commercial driver’s cell phone ticket. “California's AB 47 set to take effect 1 July 2021 will give the DMV authority to assess one or 1.5 negligent operator treatment system NOTS points for a second conviction of distracted driving violation under CVC 23123.5.” — Submitted by the CA Assembly on Transportation, Jim Frazier.

What that means to a commercial driver is a second conviction or paid fine will require the DMV to assess the 1.5 NOTS points, as a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is subject to 50 percent more NOTS points than their non-commercial driving peer. 

What’s more, the FMCSA considers a cell phone ticket in CMV a “serious offense.” When you are convicted at the state level, and the FMCSA is notified about a second commercial driver’s cell phone ticket, they assess ten Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) severity points. The driver is subject to a 60-day driver’s disqualification.  

The FMCSA Serious Offense for a Commercial Driver’s Cell Phone Ticket

The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51Driver Disqualifications, considers what would be a “minor infraction” in CA as a serious offense. These include speeding 15 or more mph over the speed limit or any speeding ticket conviction in a construction zone, an unsafe lane change, following too close (tailgating), cell phone use, and others, which can result in a 60-day driver’s disqualification for a second offense within three years of the first. 

This is why it is crucial for truck drivers to challenge every traffic ticket. Some will say, “Oh, it’s only a $150 fine in CA for a cell phone ticket. I’ll just pay it and then fight the next one if I get one.” Taking the chance that the next one will be easier to beat than one Yolo County Courthouse might be foolhardy because you never know what those circumstances will be.  

That’s huge for a truck driver who is likely the primary breadwinner at home. Imagine being forced to take a two-month unpaid vacation. It's probable the fleet manager will not wait the two months before replacing the driver in the seat of their CMV. As much as the manager might want to keep that driver, it does not make economic sense. Even when they do, a third offense within three years will mean a 120-day disqualification.

Plus, regardless of the fine at the state level, the FMCSA can assess civil fines and…“Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.” According to their FMCSA Mobile Phone Fact Sheet

Fight Your Commercial Driver Cell Phone Ticket from Woodland, CA in Yolo County Courthouse   

In Yolo County, when you get a cell phone ticket, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

We assist CDL holders in resolving their traffic tickets. We offer a free, no-obligation first consultation, so give us a call.

Email: attorney@biggerharmanlaw.com

References:

The 2019-2021 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf

The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51Driver Disqualifications

CVC Section 23123.5Driving Offenses

The FMCSA Mobile Phone Fact Sheet