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California’s Hands Free Law

(Effective July 1, 2008)

California’s Hands Free LawIf you’ve been cited under the California hands Free law (California Vehicle Code 23123, 21323.5, 23124, 23125) you were probably surprised that you were given a ticket for something that you’ve seen others do countless times that day. With the 2 year old law in full swing, police officers are citing more people than ever which means that traffic courts are experiencing extremely high volumes of these violations translating into extended wait times for those who have to appear to settle their tickets. At SD Ticket King, our attorneys can help you through the process of appearing for the violation and advocate your position if your ticket was issued in light of an exception. Here is a breakdown of the sections that a driver can be cited for if they were using a wireless device while driving.

Under California Vehicle Code 23123, all persons above the age of 18 are prohibited from using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving. The base fine for a first offense is $20 and $50 for each subsequent offense, but additional penalty assessments and fines could more than triple that amount.

Under CVC 23123.5, the text messaging section of the hands free law, a person over 18 is prohibited from driving a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication. This includes communications sent by text message, instant message, or electronic mail. However, if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name on wireless device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call, this will not be a basis for violation of this section. The fine schedule is the same for that of CVC 23123.

Under CVC 23124, all persons under the age of 18 are prohibited from driving a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone, even if equipped with a hands-free device, or while using a mobile service device. A “mobile service device” is defined as, including but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, specialized mobile radio device, handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, pager, and two way messaging device. Essentially, any device that allows you to communicate to another person in any form while driving is strictly prohibited for those under 18. However, an officer cannot stop a vehicle to determine if that person is under 18 and using a wireless device, but can only be stopped for violating CVC 23123. Basically, if you are using a wireless device without a hands-free feature, you run the risk of being stopped. The fine schedule is the same for that of CVC 23123.

And finally for those entrusted in driving a vehicle used for public transportation, including school buses, under California Vehicle Code 23125, drivers of these public transportation vehicles are prohibited from driving while using a wireless telephone. However, a driver under this section may use their phone for work-related purposes. Exceptions

The biggest exception among all of these sections if making a call related to an emergency. These would be calls to police and fire department, an emergency room, or other emergency service agency or entity. This list is not exhaustive and many emergency related situations could potentially fall into this category.

Also, drivers of tractor trailers or motor trucks over the age of 18 are permitted to use a digital two way radio that utilizes a wireless telephone that operated by pressing a push to talk feature and does not require immediate proximity to the ear of the user.

Emergency service professionals using wireless telephones while operating an authorized motor vehicle are also granted an exception.

Finally, if you’re driving on private property, you’re granted an exception from CVC 23123.

The information provided by California Ticket King is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to be used as a starting point for further discussion between you and an attorney at California Ticket King. 

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