If you have not heard, Florida’s legislature has passed a new bill banning texting, while driving. The law goes into effect on on July 1st. Texting while driving was already a secondary violation, meaning that if you were stopped for another offense, then you could also be ticketed for texting, but officers could not pull you over for the primary offense of texting. Now they can.
While many view this law as good news and a way to stop those “texters” who should be paying attention to the road, many of us who are involved in the defense of the defenseless view the new law as another way for the poor and minorities to be treated unfairly by law enforcement. Black and Hispanic motorists are already pulled over by police at a much higher rate than white motorists. Will texting while driving give the police another reason for traffic stops of minorities? The new law will require law enforcement agencies to record the race and ethnicity of violators and report the data to the governor and the Florida Legislature. But what will these offices do with the data?
Obviously, you should not text while driving. The law does allow hands-free use of the phone and texting at a stoplight. But beware! Make sure your phone is locked and password protected at all times. The Supreme Court has ruled that as long as your phone is password protected, law enforcement needs a warrant to search. If you happen to be pulled over, you have the right to remain silent and you do not have to consent to any searches.