The legal basis to stop a vehicle often involves an analysis of reasonable suspicion or probable cause in North Carolina and may include “texting.”
DWI defense lawyers, attorneys who handle drug charges in Raleigh, and even prosecutors are careful to analyze the alleged reasons law enforcement officers turn on the blue lights.
Texting while driving is illegal in North Carolina.
While there are certain exceptions authorized under the law, it may be difficult if not impossible to prove you were texting at the time of the stop.
Pretextual stops are still a thing in North Carolina. The basis of pulling you over cannot be predicated on a mere hunch or guess – John Fanney, Criminal Lawyer Raleigh NC
Why is texting while driving illegal?
North Carolina and 47 other states have passed laws related to texting while driving and distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that from 2013 until 2018 there 23,000 accidents that resulted in a fatality associated with distracted driving in the United States.
The number of accidents attributable to texting is difficult to determine. It is likely substantially underreported if not occasionally unreported.
We’ve all been behind drivers who are texting, seeing them weaving in the roadway, leaving the lane of travel, sitting at stop lights, and traveling at varying speeds – John Fanney, Raleigh DWI Lawyers
Younger, inexperienced motorists account for a substantial portion of texting while driving offenses.
Despite knowing the dangers of texting while driving and distracted driving, many people continue the practice.
Even if the officer cannot see you texting, the way you’re driving may be sufficient for probable cause to stop or reasonable suspicion to suspect criminal activity is “afoot.”
It’s important to understand reading emails and texts is considered distracted driving in North Carolina.
The NC law makes it both illegal to read emails and texts as well as to type multiple letters responding to emails, texts, and social media posts.
What are the Texting While Driving Laws in NC?
Driving while texting is set forth in North Carolina General Statute Chapter 20-137.4A.
In that it falls within Chapter 20, it is a motor vehicle offense in North Carolina.
Texting while driving is deemed an “infraction” in most instances, resulting in the imposition of the Costs of Court and a fine of $100 if convicted.
In contrast, texting while driving a school bus is a Class 2 Misdemeanor Offense, subjecting the accused to enhanced punishments including the possibility of jail depending on your calculated Prior Record Level or “PRL.”
Motor Vehicle Points under the NC SDIP or “Safe Driver Incentive Plan” are not authorized under the statute. As such, NCDMV cannot issue points for a violation of the law.
Similarly, Insurance Points may not be assessed by your insurance for texting while driving pursuant to N.C.G.S. 20-137.4A.
If involved in an accident related to texting, that could adversely affect your insurance rates.
Other motor vehicle offenses may be prosecuted that result from a violation of the texting law in NC. Those may include things like lane violations, following too closely, and even reckless driving – John Fanney, Raleigh Criminal Lawyer
Is texting Reasonable Suspicion?
The North Carolina Court of Appeals published an opinion on the issue in State v. Dalton. Defense attorneys may also refer to the case as North Carolina v. Dalton, N.C. COA20-248.
To be honest, it’s not my favorite opinion. While the Court takes great pains to limit its applicability, I suspect as a published opinion it’ll be argued in future cases involving Reasonable Suspicion and texting – John Fanney, Traffic Lawyers Raleigh NC
The Court of Appeals in State v. Dalton overruled the Defendant’s object to the stop for lack of Reasonable Suspicion.
Unfortunately, the issue was not fully preserved for appeal, thereby requiring the Court to review the matter utilizing the Plain Error legal analysis.
Despite that, the factual basis for the stop, as presented by the police officer and accepted as true by the Court, are problematic at best.
The Court, aware of future problems opined, “We are cognizant our holding may appear to create a rather perverse result.”
That’s a problem.
It also adds in relevant part, “Our holding here should not be viewed as establishing a test sufficient to meet the reasonable suspicion tests. . .” regarding allegations of texting while driving when used as the basis of the stop.
Raleigh Criminal Defense Lawyers – Fanney Law Firm
The legal basis to effectuate a stop is a very important consideration and possible defense to criminal charges including DWI in Raleigh, North Carolina.
We do not simply accept everything law enforcement says as gospel truth. We do our homework. The facts must be consistent with the law as well as common sense – John Fanney, Raleigh Lawyers
While we agree texting while driving is dangerous, it should not be a ruse for an otherwise unlawful seizure of you, your person, and or your vehicle.
Our criminal defense law firm is dedicated to providing an effective, focused defense to charges.
If the stop is illegal, it doesn’t matter whether you’re charged with drunk driving, reckless driving, or even trafficking drugs.
Both misdemeanors and felonies are subject to the Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause laws of North Carolina.
If your criminal charges began first with an alleged motor violation or the issuance of a traffic ticket, we think it’s a good idea to review the facts of the case.
Our Raleigh law firm provides free legal consultations for criminal charges in Raleigh and the surrounding judicial districts.
Call John Fanney NOW at: 919-617-7009
You may also reach John Fanney by email at John@FanneyLaw.com.