Texting and Driving in Texas

Until yesterday, Texas was one of only four states that did not have a ban on texting while driving. Governor Abbott signed off on House Bill 62 yesterday; so, effective September 1, 2017, it will be illegal to text while driving in Texas. The bill can be found at this link: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=HB62

Here is what you need to know:

This amendment adds a new offense to the Texas Transportation Code §545.4251 and states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle and text on an electronic device aka cell phone while the vehicle is moving. This offense will be a class C ticket punishable by a fine only, but if someone is accused of causing serious bodily injury or death because of texting and driving the case can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable up to 1 year in jail.

The legal requirements to prove the offense of texting while driving state that the texting must take place in the presence or within view of a police officer; although other evidence can be used. What type of “other evidence” can be used? No one knows yet, but here are defenses and exceptions to this law. Do you use your music app while driving? There is a defense for that. Also, if you use a GPS/navigation app, no need to worry. If you rely on these functions while you drive, the law makes exceptions for that and allows you to use them. The problem is that an officer may go ahead and issue you a citation/ticket, and then you will have to head to a municipal judge to show that you qualify for one of the defenses listed in the Code. Another part of the law says that officers will not be allowed to take possession or inspect your cell phone without your permission. The caveat to that is if officers have a legal reason to search or take possession under Texas Penal Code or Code of Criminal Procedure, they can confiscate on other grounds.

Some critics of this bill think that it will be just another way for officers to make contact with suspects and conduct warrantless stops on vehicles. Officers can pull you over if there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion that you are committing a criminal offense; this can include speeding, invalid registration, and now texting while driving. For now, we advise that you start getting used to the fact that you will not be able to text while your vehicle is in motion. If you text and drive in Texas, it could cost you!