Can I fight a ticket for texting while driving?

Many Florida drivers who get seemingly minor traffic tickets elect not to challenge the citations in court because they believe it's a foregone conclusion that they will be convicted.

So, they open their wallets and swallow their pride and pay up, whether or not they believe that they were guilty of the offense.

In Florida, you stand a fighting chance

In this state, unlike the majority of others, texting while driving remains a secondary offense. Despite legislative efforts earlier this spring, lawmakers were stymied in their attempts to make texting while driving a primary offense.

What this means is that for a police officer to stop a motorist for texting while driving, the officer must already have another reason to pull the driver over. For instance, a texting driver who blows through a stop sign could receive two violations — one for the stop sign and another for texting behind the wheel.

It's thus possible in many circumstances to challenge the veracity of a charge of texting while driving.

Why the bill failed

While HB 33 sailed through the Florida House, a Republican senator effectively shut it down by expressing concern over individuals' privacy rights and expanding police power in traffic stops. Had the bill passed, it would have effectively given law enforcement officers the right to search motorists' cellphones to determine whether they had indeed been texting while driving.

Robust defense can lead to dismissals

Without the teeth of a primary offense, police investigators do not have the right to access a driver's cellphone records unless there was a fatal collision or other motorists, passengers, pedestrians or cyclists suffered injuries.

Therefore, if you choose to contest your citation, it literally often comes down to a police officer's word against a defendant's. That's not to say that a Sarasota court might not look more favorably upon a law enforcement officer's testimony than the average motorist's.

However, in many cases, police officers are already too aggressive and overeager to cite motorists for minor traffic infractions and other breaches that caused no harm to people or property. It's these type of cases where motorists stand the best chances of prevailing in court.

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