Monday, September 30, 2019

Preparing your case to fight your traffic ticket, part 5

Finally, you can use the "all-knowing google" to see if there's anything else out there that might help you.  I googled “California case cellphone use driving” and various combinations and permutations.  I discovered the case People v Spriggs.

In that case, Mr. Spriggs pulled out his cell phone to find an alternate route around a traffic jam.  He was NOT talking, he was NOT texting.  He was looking at a map.

He was charged with violating Vehicle Code section 23123, same as I was.

Here's the court's summary of its decision:

Spriggs contends he did not violate the statute because he was not talking on the telephone. We agree. Based on the statute's language, its legislative history, and subsequent legislative enactments, we conclude that the statute means what it says — it prohibits a driver only from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it. Consequently, we reverse his conviction.

The court engaged in a very long discussion of the history behind the law, and focused on what it thought was the intent of the legislature when it drafted the law.

The statute specifically states the telephone must be used in a manner that allows for "hands-free listening and talking." It does not state that it must be used in a manner that allows for hands-free looking, hands-free operation or hands-free use, or for anything other than listening and talking. Had the Legislature intended to prohibit drivers from holding the telephone and using it for all purposes, it would not have limited the telephone's required design and configuration to "hands-free listening and talking," but would have used broader language, such as "hands-free operation" or "hands-free use."

Therefore, since I was not listening or talking, I wasn't guilty of violating this statute!

Same caveat as last week:

Caveat – I'm discussing the law as it existed (1) at the time I received my ticket, or (2) at the time I wrote this blog post.  The law frequently changes.  The Vehicle Code section might be different now.  A new case might have been decided with the opposite result and which overruled the case I discuss here.  Always look at the law and the cases which are in effect on the date YOU received YOUR traffic ticket.

Next week we'll look at collecting your evidence for trial.

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