Proposed Changes to Virginia’s “Texting While Driving” Laws

The Virginia General Assembly, as a part of the 2013 session, has submitted a bill for Governor Bob McDonnell’s consideration that would dramatically change the enforcement and prosecution of Virginia’s existing laws against texting while driving.  House Bill 1907 would now make texting while driving punishable the same as reckless driving – a class 1 misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $2500 fine.  Texting while driving is currently a secondary offense in Virginia, and one that can only be charged when the offender has been stopped for a separate, primary offense.  If House Bill 1907 were to be endorsed by the Governor, a reasonable suspicion by police that a motorist is texting while driving could serve as the sole basis for a traffic stop.  Criminal defense lawyers across Virginia fear that the new law will be abused by law enforcement officials to pull over thousands of motorists who they would otherwise have no reason to stop.  Ultimately, House Bill 1907 could help police justify the detention of any motorist in possession of a mobile phone while driving.

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