Police Officers Broad Interpretation of VC 23123a

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While almost every California resident who drives is aware that California banned the use of talking on your cell phone while driving unless using hands-free device, most people are not aware of how broad police officers are interpreting the law banning such use. Under Vehicle Code 23123a:” A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving.” This essentially states that you must have a hands-free device while on the phone if you are driving.

However nowhere does it state that the vehicle code prohibits a person from simply “holding” or “touching” thier phone while driving. A CHP officer cited me because he saw my phone in my hand. My phone was sliding on the center counsel so I picked it up and placed it in my cup holder. Ironically, I was  actually on a phone call using my hands-free device through my car speakers. I even had my caller say hello to the officer so he could hear his voice through the speakers and acknowledge that I was in fact using my hands-free device. I also showed the officer my phone so he could see that I had been on the phone call for 10 minutes before he had pulled me over, using the hands-free the entire time. The officer stated that it didn’t matter because he saw my phone in my hand for a few seconds.

While I do not believe that the officers argument will hold up in court, drivers should be aware that officers are giving tickets out for simply having your phones in your hands while driving, even if you are not on a phone call or texting.

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