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Virginia’s Ban on Handheld Devices Goes into Effect

| Feb 16, 2021 | Criminal

Virginia has long cracked down on distracted driving, and the state showed that it meant business this summer when it passed a bill to ban handheld devices, including cell phones, while driving. This law has only recently gone into effect in 2021, and some drivers might not be aware of it.

If you’ve been stopped from distracted driving, please contact Del Rio Law today. Our traffic offenses attorney will happily meet with you to review your defense options.

What the Law Prohibits

The law is codified at Virginia Code § 46.2-818.2. It prohibits holding a handheld personal communications device when a person is driving on the highways in the state. Prohibited devices can include cell phones, smart phones, and pagers. In short, it prohibits using anything electronic that can communicate with another person. And the law prohibits holding the device, not only using the device.

The law lays out some exceptions to the law, however:

  • Emergency personnel doing their jobs
  • A worker for the Department of Transportation in furtherance of their job
  • A person who is lawfully stopped or parked
  • A person using a device to report an emergency, such as an accident or crime
  • Someone using an amateur radio

If you aren’t covered by an exception, you absolutely should not be holding a device while driving.

Penalties for Violators

Any violation is an infraction, which can net a person a fine. If this is your first offense, then you are facing a $125 fine. If this is your second or subsequent offense, the fine rises to $250.

Those stopped in a work zone will automatically face harsher penalties. In particular, your fine will be $250, even for a first offense.

Should you hit someone while using your phone, then you can face different criminal charges, such as manslaughter. You should certainly speak with an attorney if anyone was injured in an accident while you were driving.

Should You Fight a Traffic Infraction?

Infractions are not criminal, so they do not show up in your criminal history. For some people, paying the fine seems like the sensible choice. It’s quick; it’s easy; and you can move on with your life.

However, depending on your situation, fighting a traffic infraction makes better sense. Infractions add demerit points to your driving history, which can increase the amount of your insurance. Someone with multiple traffic infractions in a short period of time could be paying hundreds of dollars more each month just to maintain bare-bones liability coverage. If you are truly innocent of the charge, there is no reason to admit guilt.

Don’t Lose Your License

Depending on your driving history, you might also be on the cusp of having your license suspended for too many tickets. Losing your license, even temporarily, can make it hard to get to work or school. Some people do not have the money to hire a taxi to get where they need to go. Fighting a ticket can be a financially savvy decision.

Demerit points stay on a person’s record for years, and a violation of the handheld devices law will result in three demerit points being added to your record. Once a driver accumulates too many points, he or she receives a 90 day license suspension:

  • 18 points in 12 months
  • 24 points in 24 months

Drivers who are under 18 will see a suspension much sooner—two offenses will net an automatic suspension, and three will result in a revocation for at least a year.

Imagine you have already gotten 15 points in the past 6 months. One conviction for using handheld devices will push you over the edge, resulting in a 90 day suspension.

Contact Our Virginia Traffic Offense Lawyer Today

Del Rio Law, PLLC is a leading firm representing men, women, and minors who are facing traffic violations in Virginia. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to review your options.