Hands-Free Cell Phone Law
On the drive to work today, I saw several drivers talking on their cell phones. Tomorrow, that will be illegal. At least . . . I think I did. That’s what it looked like.
However, like all laws, this one has exclusions, exceptions, and nuances. And like all laws, it will be selectively enforced.
How often to you see people talking on their phones while driving? Assuming that everyone doesn’t instantly change their behavior police could do nothing but stop people for talking on their phones while driving. They won’t. Just like they don’t stop every car with a broken tail light or a dirty (obscured) license plate.
Hence selective enforcement.
I published an article in the Pioneer Press (St. Paul) last year calling for an end to pulling people over for minor equipment violations (police could just mail them a ticket instead of pulling them over). Among the law enforcement responses I got, personally, was that they (law enforcement) use these excuses to stop vehicles they want to search (“pretext stops”). This law will be used the same way.
There are also issues with proof. Whatever the reason, malfeasance or error, police often pull people over for alleged violations that never occurred. But if you’re pulled over for using your cell phone because the officer thought he or she saw you doing so, what are you going to do? It’s your word against the officer’s. With enough time and expense, you could subpoena the cell phone company’s records and compare the time of the stop with the time of your phone calls. But what if you were using your phone at that time but properly, in hands-free mode?
I routinely litigate stops in which police say that my client changed lanes without signaling, crossed a lane line, swerved, or exceeded the speed limit but the video and other evidence shows otherwise. How do you prove that someone was or was not using a cell phone in violation of the law? A case made national news recently when someone in Connecticut was charged with talking on his cell phone while driving, but he proved that he was actually eating a hash brown.
Whether by mistake, pretext, or outright malfeasance, police stop people all the time for alleged violations that turn out not to be true. This law will lead to many wrong stops, stops that lead to illegal searches, and pretext stops.
All in all, I’m pretty sure it’s a good law. But it will lead to wrongful prosecutions, abuse, and costly mistakes.
If you’re stopped and have questions, call me: 612-310-7398