The law continues to keep up with advancing technology. Across the country and in Iowa, there have been an increasing amount of discussions regarding the consequences of text messaging while driving/

As more motor vehicle accidents result in deaths that stem from driving while text messaging, legislators have begun to create or toughen existing laws to criminalize text messaging while driving.

As of July 1, 2017, in Iowa, you can be fined for texting and driving. More importantly, law enforcement can now make a traffic stop if the officer suspects that you are using your cell phone to send text messages, check Facebook, send photos, or browse the internet according to the new law in Iowa Code Section 321.276.

The officer can make the traffic stop even though there are no other observable traffic violations.

Prior to this law taking effect, law enforcement could only issue a citation for text messaging if the motorists had committed another offense, such as speeding or running a stop sign.

Iowa Accident AttorneysSection 321.276 specifically provides language for what constitutes texting while driving as well as what it does not consider to be driving while texting. This law specifically prohibits a person from using a hand-held electronic device to write, send, or view an electronic message while driving a motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion of the roadway.  This means your vehicle needs to be stopped and you need to be off the road of flowing traffic if you want to, among other things, manually text someone a message on your smart phone. The language of the statute seems to suggest that even if you are stopped at a stop light sending a text message, but are still in the traveled portion of the roadway, you could nonetheless be violating the new driving while texting law.

The Iowa Code defines an “electronic device,” like an I-Phone, as a mobile telephone or other portable electronic communication device capable of being used to write, send, or view an electronic message. Moreover, it defines the terms “write, send, and view” as the manual entry, transmission, or retrieval of an electronic message. This also includes playing, browsing, or accessing an electronic message. The Code defines “electronic message” as images visible on the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device including a text-based message, an instant message, a portion of electronic mail, an internet site, a social media application, or a game.

The definition of an electronic device, on the other hand, does not include a voice-operated or hands-free device which allows the user to write, send, or view an electronic message without the use of either hand except to activate or deactivate a feature of function. So, using voice-operated or hands-free functions that would allow you to text a message for example, would not be a violation of this statute. In addition, it is not a violation of this statute if the person uses a global positioning system (GPS) or navigation system. It is also not a violation of this section if the person for the purpose of engaging in a call, the person selects or enters a telephone number or name in a hand-held mobile telephone or activates, deactivates, or initiates a function of a hand-held mobile telephone. So, individuals will still be able to make phone calls from their cell phones without violating the statute.

Furthermore, under this section, law enforcement officers do not have the authority to take your hand-held device from you or an occupant of the motor vehicle.

A person convicted of this charge is guilty of a simple misdemeanor. It is punishable as a scheduled violation which is a thirty-dollar ($30.00) fine.  A conviction of this section does not constitute a moving violation.  –Nick Wingert

Regardless of your situation or charges, the attorneys here at Hall & Wingert are here to help. The attorneys here will work with you every step of the way.

If you have been charged with a texting and driving violation, which has resulted in additional charges because of the traffic stop, please give us a call. Whether it’s your first charge or a subsequent, speak with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible! We are located in Sioux City, Iowa, and have attorneys licensed to practice in both Iowa and Nebraska. We are ready to provide you with a strong legal case. Don’t delay any longer. Call us today at (712) 226-4255.

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Any criminal charge is a big deal. Even something like texting and driving, that may seem harmless, can cause fatal accidents. If you would like to talk to one of our criminal defense advocates or if you have any questions or concerns about what we can do for you, contact Brett or Nick at Hall & Wingert today. We look forward to working with you.