Effective September 1, 2017, the State of Texas made it an offense if you are caught, “Using a Wireless Communication Device While Operating a Motor Vehicle.”
What does this mean?
Texas Transportation Code Section 545.4251 prohibits the use of a wireless communication device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.
An operator commits an offense if the operator uses a Portable Wireless Communication Device (defined by the statute) to Read, Write, or Send an Electronic Message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.
Basically, if you're using your cell phone or other wireless communication device to surf the internet, check emails or to read and send text messages while your vehicle is moving, and you’re not using a "Hands-Free Device" - a police officer will likely issue a citation alleging you violated the law.
What is a "Hands-Free Device?"
"Hands-free device" means speakerphone capability or a telephone attachment or other piece of equipment, regardless of whether permanently installed in the motor vehicle, that allows use of the wireless communication device without use of either of the operator's hands.
(TTC § 545.425)
Think speakerphone, "bluetooth" or your vehicle's stereo if it will link to your phone for making or receiving calls without the requirement to hold the cell phone in your hand during the call.
To be prosecuted, the behavior must be committed in the presence of or within the view of a peace officer, or established by other evidence.
A peace officer who stops a motor vehicle for an alleged violation of Section 545.4251 may NOT take possession of or otherwise inspect a portable wireless communication device in the possession of the operator unless authorized by other law.
If you’re convicted of Using a Wireless Communication Device While Operating a Motor Vehicle – meaning the ticket or citation is reported to Texas DPS and is “On Your Record” – your driving record will show the conviction – but the conviction WILL NOT ADD POINTS to your license.
A first offense under Section 545.4251 is punishable by a minimum fine of $25.00 and a maximum fine of $99.00, plus the statutory court costs. Subsequent conviction(s) increases the possible minimum fine to $100.00 and maximum fine to $200.00, plus statutory court costs.
It may be a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000.00 AND confinement in jail for a term not to exceed One (1) Year if a defendant caused the Death or Serious Bodily Injury of another person as a result of Using a Wireless Communication Device While Operating a Motor Vehicle, even for a first offense.
A ticket (for Using a Wireless Communication Device While Operating a Motor Vehicle, or any other alleged traffic violation) is actually a formal summons for you to appear at court and answer the charge against you. If you fail to appear by the date listed on the citation, you can be issued a new ticket and warrants for your immediate arrest will likely issue.
You have the constitutional right to be represented by an attorney if you so choose - which means in most cases, we can appear for you.
Our experienced and professional attorneys aggressively defend you against any alleged violation. We will fully explain all your options for disposition or trial – and you get to decide how we will proceed – the choice is always yours, but we’re here to help you understand the consequences of whatever decision you make.
DON'T EVER PLEAD GUILTY without first understanding what it will mean to your record and your ability to keep or get a Texas Driver's License.
A citation is only an accusation you violated a law - IT IS NOT a finding of guilt by itself!
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