FAKE NEWS ALERT: The Texting and Driving Law in Florida HAS NOT Changed
Once again, people are posting false information about Florida law on social media.
The fake posts says, “They passed a new law in Florida that if the cops see you with your phone in hand while driving you will get a $250.00 ticket and you will be sent to driving school. This law passed Monday. Let everyone know. Be Careful.”
Texting and Driving in Florida
In 2018, the Florida Legislature considered a law to strengthen laws which would further prohibit “texting and driving” and other types of distracted driving. House Bill 33 can be viewed here. It excluded all types of typing while driving, except navigation, safety related messages, police or emergency related messages, radio broadcasts and vehicle functioning. The law is fairly silent on “talking” and phone call functions of the phone.
The primary purpose was to make this a primary offense in Florida. It currently stands as a secondary offense, which means an officer cannot stop someone or cite someone for texting unless they committed another moving violation.
Although the law was passed in the Florida House (HB-33) by an overwhelming vote of 112-2, the bill died in the Florida Senate (SB-90) and is thus NOT LAW. It will seemingly fail this session.
Senator Rob Bradley killed the bill in committee over concerns about privacy issues- namely the right it gives police to download or search phones to determine if someone was using it while driving. This is despite that consent to search a motor vehicle operator’s wireless communications device must be voluntary and unequivocal. In other words, the law allowed the person stopped to refuse access of the phone to the officer.
There is also a provision which requires police officers to note the race of the violator, as some have expressed fears that the new law will be used to unfairly target minorities.
The post is wrong because both houses of the Florida Legislature have to pass a bill and the governor has to refuse to veto it before it can become law. As such, it is not law. It also said simply having a phone “in hand” is illegal. This is also untrue. Finally, the fines and sanctions are incorrect.
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