Florida’s cell phone and electronic device use while driving laws

Inasmuch as many of our New York traffic ticket clients are either Florida residents or spend a substantial amount of time in Florida, we found it fitting to do an article on the changes in Florida’s motor vehicle law pertaining to use of electronic devices / cell phones while driving. Florida’s law is much different than New York’s cell phone law. In NY, use of a cell phone or any electronic device is strictly prohibited under NY VTL § 1225. This is not so under Florida Motor Vehicle Law § 316.305. While there are restrictions on use of a cell phone while operating a vehicle in Florida under Florida Motor Vehicle Law § 316.306, Florida law only bans texting while driving and allows for use of a cell phone while driving.

Florida’s texting prohibition

Florida has prohibited texting and driving since 2013. However, until 2019 it was a secondary violation. That meant a police officer could not pull over a motorist for texting and driving unless the officer observed a different violation at the same time. Commencing July 1, 2019, texting and driving became a primary offense, meaning that a police officer no longer has to observe a secondary violation to cite a motorist for texting while driving. While the primary offense law went into effect on July 1, 2019, the law provides for a warning period from then until December 31, 2019. This means that anyone stopped prior to the New Year will be issued a warning only, after which the motorist is subject to being cited.

Exceptions to the Florida texting law

Florida Motor Vehicle Law § 316.305 also exempts certain communication from the ban. For example, the texting ban does not apply to a vehicle operator who is contacting law enforcement for emergency purposes, receiving messages that are related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle, or safety-related information, or data used primarily by the motor vehicle, or radio broadcasts, or use for navigation purposes (i.e., GPS), or conducting wireless communication that does not require manual entry, or conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require reading text messages, or while operating an autonomous vehicle. Moreover, texting is only prohibited when the vehicle is in motion.

Restrictions on enforcement of the Florida texting law 

Often time the officer’s initial observations are not enough to cite a motorist for texting while driving, and in order to obtain the requisite proof and evidence the officer must examine the cell phone. Under the law, the law enforcement officer must “inform the motor vehicle operator of his or her right to decline a search of his or her wireless communications device and may not: access the wireless communications device without a warrant, confiscate the wireless communications device while awaiting issuance of a warrant to access such device.” Florida MV L. § 316.305(c). Moreover, an officer may not “obtain consent from the motor vehicle operator to search his or her wireless communications device through coercion or other improper method. Consent to search a motor vehicle operator’s wireless communications device must be voluntary and unequivocal.” Id. In other words, if you are pulled over and accused of texting while driving, don’t give consent!

New restrictions on cell phone use

Generally, a Florida motorist is allowed to use a handheld cell phone to make calls while driving. However, as of October 1, 2019, Florida drivers are no longer allowed to hold cell phones in work or school zones. Under newly enacted Florida Motor Vehicle Law § 316.306, “A person may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a designated school crossing, school zone, or work zone area…This subparagraph shall only be applicable to work zone areas if construction personnel are present or are operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the work zone area.” Id.

This means that a motorist may not use an electronic device to make a phone call or text while in a school or active work zone. Stationary motor vehicles are exempt from this new law, and the same exceptions and enforcement restrictions as contained in Florida Motor Vehicle Law § 316.305 for texting apply. There is a warning only grace period until December 31, 2019, after which a motorist will be subject to being cited.

Have you been charged with a cell phone or electronic device violation under NY V & T Law § 1225 and have questions or concerns? If so give us a call anytime 24 / 7. We talk to people all day, every day about their traffic ticket issues and problems, and would be happy to answer any questions that you may have!