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California Vehicle Code 23123 Texting and Driving

California Vehicle Code Section 23123 VC prohibits driving while using a phone or mobile device. There are limited functions a driver can use while driving and drivers under the age of 18 have even more restrictions. Texting and driving is not a criminal violation but only an infraction. However, a driver can get pulled over for driving and using the phone, which could lead the officer to look for other criminal violations, like a DUI

Texting and driving can be the pretext for a traffic stop. If the police find other traffic violations or suspect criminal activity, the driver may be facing multiple charges. If you are facing criminal charges as the result of a traffic stop, contact a local East Bay criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

Vehicle Code 23123 VC Text for Talking on the Phone

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23123

“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while 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.”

This applies to talking on the phone while driving, and not using the phone for other purposes like texting or mapping. Even if a driver is on speaker-phone, the driver cannot be holding the phone at the time. However, using a hands-free device for talking and listening is allowed.  

Vehicle Code 23123.5 VC Text for Texting, Email, or Using Apps

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5

“A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”

For some people, talking is the least used feature of their phone. Mobile devices can do just about anything, with some of the most common uses including:

  • Texting,
  • Email,
  • Mapping a drive,
  • Internet searches,
  • Watching movies,
  • Playing games,
  • Camera, and
  • Listening to music.

Not surprisingly, distracted driving accidents while using the phone have increased dramatically over the past decades. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use is involved in an estimated 27% of all car crashes.

Vehicle Code 23124 VC for Under-18 Drivers

California Vehicle Code Section 23124 applies specifically to drivers under the age of 18. Under-18 drivers are not permitted to talk on the phone or text on the phone while driving, even if they are using a hands-free device. The penalties for an under-18 texting and driving violation is a $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. There is also an exception for using the phone during an emergency. 

How Texting and Driving Can Lead to DUI Charges

A texting and driving ticket on its own may not be worth fighting because a first-time ticket is only $20. The real concern is over what happens if a driver is pulled over for talking on the phone and it leads to further suspicion of other charges, like drunk driving. A police officer can pull over a driver for any minor violation, including a burned-out taillight, failing to signal, or texting and driving. Once a traffic stop has begun, the officer may be looking for more. 

For example, if a driver is stopped for using the phone while driving and the officer asks if the driver was drinking, if the driver says they had 1 beer, the officer may begin to suspect the driver may be impaired. As evidence of the driver's “impairment,” the officer could say the driver was drifting across the lane and had a delayed reaction to a red light. This could all be caused by using the phone while driving. But because the driver admitted to having a drink, they may be facing criminal DUI charges instead of a $20 ticket. 

Even if the driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) below the legal limit (0.08% for most drivers), a driver can still face DUI charges. Under California Vehicle Code 23152, “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.” This includes drivers who are under the legal limit. “Under the influence” means that as a result of drinking alcohol or taking a drug, his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.

Who to Call After a DUI Arrest?

It can be tempting to try and just forget about a DUI arrest but if you don't address it immediately, it can have long-lasting consequences. The prosecutor may try and offer a “deal” to reduce the charges with a guilty plea but you may have a stronger case than you realize. Before pleading guilty, it is important to understand your rights. 

You should call an experienced, local DUI defense attorney for immediate help after an arrest. Your attorney can explain your options, challenge your license suspension, and fight to keep criminal charges off your record. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 36 years of DUI experience. Representing drivers in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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