man in car texting while driving about to have an accident

Whenever a friend of mine from another state would visit me in Florida and I would grab my cell phone while driving, they would be shocked that we had no laws that outlawed cell phone use while driving. It really blew them away when I told them texting while driving wasn’t a primary offense either (you would have had to be pulled over for another offense to receive a violation for texting while driving). Well, all of that changed as of July 1, 2019.

Florida finally got up to speed (no pun intended) and passed a ban on texting while driving that has some teeth. It is now officially a violation to text and drive while your car is moving. And yes, of course, that includes emailing, messaging, snap chatting and anything else you will try to claim you were doing instead of texting. Basically, you can’t manually type anything on your phone while driving.

Now, interestingly enough, the law makes clear that all of these prohibitions are while your car is moving. Meaning, if you are stopped waiting for a train to go by, you are free to text away. Crazy, I know. Not crazy in the sense that if you have a foot on the brake, you’re not really driving because the car is not moving. But crazy in that it’s an enormous change from the current DUI law where you can get a DUI if you are in the backseat taking a nap with the keys in your pocket and the car turned off. But I digress.

You can still operate your phone for navigation, receive weather and emergency reports and of course, talk on the phone (as long as you’re not in a school or construction zone where workers are present in which case you need to be hands-free). I hope you see where this is going. What a mess.

So now an officer is going to have to pull you over and listen to your excuses, I mean explanations of all the things you were doing on your phone that are legal to cover up the fact that you were just doing something illegal on your phone. And to make things more complicated, an officer cannot take your phone to see what you were doing without a warrant. You absolutely have the right to refuse to turn over your phone to a police officer who does not have a warrant.

So where does that leave us? Well on the positive side, anything that gets people to put their phone down while they are driving will no doubt save lives and countless accidents. I’m all for that. The other positive is that between now and January, the police will only be giving out warnings. However, that’s where the positives end.

Because now there is a law that allows the police to pull you over and accuse you of texting while driving without actually having proof that you were texting and driving. They will have to prove it in court, however. Sadly, there will be cases where the police use this new law as a pretext for pulling people over simply because they can. I’d love to think that in 2019, we don’t have police that would do things like that, but I watch the news enough to know better.

If you get pulled over after December, the fine will be $30 and a point will be put your license if you pay it the first time. If you’re caught again in the next 5 years, the fine goes up to $60 and 3 points will be put on your license. Obviously, before you do anything, you should give us a call at 866-374-8355. We’ve been helping Florida drivers avoid points and fines for over 25 years and handled over a million tickets. Just to be safe, reach out to us when you’re not driving.

police officer making person perform DUI test

Before I give you the best tip you may ever get about the standardized field sobriety test, please allow me to clarify what they are (that’s what you call a tease).

In a DUI case, one of the most important pieces of evidence against you is the visual proof that you were under the influence to the extent your normal faculties were impaired at the time of the incident. This is done partly through the use of roadside exercises (standardized field sobriety test) which are commonly videotaped (in some counties) for courtroom presentation and ultimately shown to the jury as proof of your “condition” at the (or close to the) time of the alleged DUI.

These standardized field sobriety tests are given either at the site of the DUI (or somewhere close to where you were stopped) or at the BAT (Breath Alcohol Testing) facility in a controlled environment. In some cases, you may be asked to perform them twice, as stated earlier.

The law enforcement officer will administer several of the following tests:

  • HGN: This is commonly known as the “pen test” where the officer asks you to follow a pen as he/she waives it in front of your eyes. They are looking for a Nystagmous or lack of smooth pursuit when your eye(s) move side to side following the pen.

  • Walk and Turn: The law enforcement officer first demonstrates the exercise, then asks you to walk nine steps on an imaginary or real line, make a u-turn, and walk back nine steps to complete the exercise, while walking heel to toe in both directions, with your hands at your side.

  • One Leg Stand: The law enforcement officer will tell you to stand and balance on one leg with the other leg raised approximately six inches off the ground with your hands at your side for thirty seconds.
  • Romberg Alphabet Test: You will be asked to stand in a particular position, by the law enforcement officer to recite the alphabet in a non-singing, nonrhythmic/rhyming way from A to Z.

It helps if you are in shape, and are somewhat athletic because some of these exercises are not easy to perform, independent of whether you have had a drink, or two.

OK, so now that you know what the standardized field sobriety tests are, here’s the tip. You are not legally obligated to perform them. If you are asked, you absolutely may refuse to take them. It’s up to you if you want to refuse, but you should be aware that they are not legally mandatory.

Have any more questions about these standardized field sobriety tests? Feel free to email me at [email protected]