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Texting While Driving – Is It a Crime?

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According to a report in the Arizona Daily Star (11/11/13), the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) intends to begin a campaign in January to crack down on drivers who are distracted by texting or otherwise using their cell phones while behind the wheel. DPS spokesman Bart Graves highlighted the recent death of DPS officer Tim Huffman, who was allegedly killed earlier this year by a driver of a semi-truck who was distracted by his cell phone. Although our State Legislature has rejected previous attempts at regulating cell phone usage while driving, DPS plans to cite driver's under Arizona Revised Statute §28-701– Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent:

A. A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, conditions and actual and potential hazards then existing. A person shall control the speed of a vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle or other conveyance on, entering or adjacent to the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to exercise reasonable care for the protection of others.

This is a civil traffic violation and the penalties for civil traffic speeding violations include 3 points against your driver's license and a maximum fine of $250 (plus surcharges).

Traffic violations arising from distractions, such as texting, could also be charged under existing AZ criminal statutes, such as §28-693 – Reckless Driving:

A. A person who drives a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

B. A person convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

In addition to being charged with 2nd Degree Murder, the truck-driver accused of killing the DPS officer was also charged under §13-1201 – Endangerment:

A. A person commits endangerment by recklessly endangering another person with a substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury.

B. Endangerment involving a substantial risk of imminent death is a class 6 felony. In all other cases, it is a class 1 misdemeanor.

While civil traffic violations can result in fines and points against your driver's license, a criminal conviction can certainly have far greater consequences, including the possibility of jail time, substantial fees and fines, loss of driving privileges, a criminal record and other potential repercussions.

The Firm handles all types of criminal and civil traffic violations and provides free consultations for pending criminal cases. Contact the office today to discuss your case with a Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney (certified by the State Bar of AZ).

**This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact the Firm to schedule a consultation regarding your case.

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