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Is it Legal to Text at a Stoplight?

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Earlier this year, Colorado State lawmakers rejected a proposed law that would have made it illegal to use phone applications while driving and would have banned phone calls on hand-held devices. While no state bans all cellphone use for all drivers, thirteen states ban all drivers from using hand-held phones while driving. [1] Additionally, thirty-seven states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by teen or novice drivers. The prevalence of cell phone use in publicized crashes has raised questions about the role that cell phones play in driver distraction.

While most states still allow veteran drivers to use a hand-held or a hands-free phone, a strong majority of states have taken a harsher stance on texting while driving. In forty-four states, text messaging is illegal for all drivers, regardless of age or experience. These laws typically include adaptations of the following language, "prohibits…using a wireless telephone while a motor vehicle they are operating is in motion." The interesting distinction then is whether "in motion" includes situations where the vehicle is stopped, but not parked. The above language is taken from a Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-239 that was enacted in 2009 and prohibits texting while driving, as well as all cell phone use by those under eighteen who are operating a motor vehicle.

In Florida, the relevant statute actually includes language that "a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition." Therefore, in Florida a driver who is at a stoplight can text on his or her phone. [2] However, in Colorado the definition of "operating a motor vehicle" has been carefully drafted to only exclude situations where a person is maintaining the instruments of control while the motor vehicle is at rest in a shoulder lane or lawfully parked. So, texting at a stoplight is illegal in Colorado and you can be fined $50 dollars for the initial infraction, this amount increases with subsequent violations.

If you feel the need to text while driving in Colorado, you should know that what you are doing is not only dangerous, but also illegal, even at stoplights. Interpreting the intentions and verbiage of lawmakers is a difficult task, one best left to an attorney. If you have been ticket or arrested by a police officer you should obtain knowledgeable and experienced legal representation.

To speak with an attorney about your criminal case, contact our Cantafio and Song, PLLC criminal defense team toll-free at (888) 458-0991.

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