Monday, July 27, 2015

Read your traffic ticket before pleading guilty

Early last summer, my #1 Navy son told me he was shipping out on his first overseas deployment.  As you can probably imagine, I was not that thrilled.  My opinion changed when I learned he was going to Okinawa.  As overseas deployments go, Okinawa is about as stress-free on moms as it can get.  So I was happy.

A few days prior to the date he was shipping out, he sent me a text telling me he would call me that night right before he shut off his phone for a few months.  After that, we'd have to communicate by email, since neither of us had overseas cell service.  [I learned later that he was able to call me at the liberty center with some type of specialized WiFi that routes phone calls stateside.  Most of his calls came from a Florida number.]

Anyway, he sent me that text.  I was stopped at a red light in a heap of traffic, so I replied back, letting him know I'd be home at 6:30pm.

The light changed and I pulled forward along with a LOT of other cars.  Saw pretty red and blue lights in my rear view mirror.  Rats.

So I pulled off on a side street and received a ticket for texting while driving.  I didn't say anything to the cop, just dutifully handed over my license and registration.  Yes, I was not moving at the time, but the engine was running so technically I was "driving" even tho stopped.

The vehicle code section he cited me for, was using a cell phone while driving.  In CA, you can only use a cell phone while driving if you are hands-free, meaning you need a bluetooth or similar device.  I wasn't.

I called an acquaintance of mine who defends traffic tickets.  He told me to look up a case People v Spriggs which states that this particular code section applies ONLY to speaking and listening on the phone.  The code section for texting is entirely different than the code section I was cited for.

An internet search gave me the case my friend referenced, plus the relevant code sections.  As it turns out, I was certainly guilty of texting while driving, but I was NOT guilty of violating the code section written on the ticket.

Bottom line - always read your ticket.  Never assume the officer is right, or that you'll lose.

On the date written at the bottom of the ticket, I appeared in court and pled not-guilty.  The court set a trial date.

Next week - my trial.

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