At the Law Offices of Blackford & Flohr, we understand there is a lot of confusion around many of the laws in place. It can be difficult to keep up with all of the new laws coming into play, so we’ve taken the liberty to start a new blog series on New Maryland Laws. Stay updated on the newest Maryland laws to keep yourself out of trouble and out of jail, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or if you are in need of a criminal defense attorney.
The first new Maryland law that we are going to cover is the cell phone while driving law. There has been a lot of confusion over this law in the past, so we’ll try to keep you up-to-date on all of the changes that go on with it.
What is it?
First, the law is not entirely “new.” It’s more of an update to an old bill passed back in 2005. You can read the entire bill and see the timeline of the bill’s progress on the Maryland State website. Essentially, this law prohibits the use of cell phones and other mobile devices while driving. This includes:
- Smartphones/cell phones
- Handheld video game devices
Back in 2005, Maryland legislature passed a bill (which was signed by the governor in late May) that prohibits any driver with a learner’s permit or provisional driver’s license from using mobile devices. Initially, the law was targeting younger drivers from the upper teens to lower 20’s. The law also stated that the officer can only enforce it as a secondary offense. So, if you had a provisional driver’s license and are pulled over for running a stop sign, this new law could add on more fines; however, you could not be pulled over specifically for using the device as it is only a secondary offense.
One very important note: This law refers to mobile devices as “wireless communication devices.” This does include Bluetooth headsets and built-in car Bluetooth systems. All wireless communication devices are included under this law.
This law took place on October 1, 2009. As you can see, and may have heard about, this is no longer the only cell phone while driving law.
Present Day’s Cell Phone Driving Law
Today, we find changes to this bill. In 2013, there was a new law that took effect. As of October 1, 2013 you are no longer allowed to use handheld devices while driving. There are no restrictions or exceptions (except the police officers’ laptops), meaning all drivers are affected. Another core piece to this law is that it is now a primary offense. This means that you can now be pulled over if an officer sees you using a handheld device.
Penalties and Fines
As with all traffic violations, there are penalties, fines, and yes, even points involved. The offenses with their associated fines are listed below:
- $83.00 fine
- $140.00 fine
- $160.00 fine
If any accident occurs while using your mobile device, you will automatically be given 3 points to your driver’s license.
As a commercial driver, the fines start at $290.00 for the 1st offense.
Not widely known is the fact that the Judge, at his or her own discretion, may waive the penalty if:
- This is the your first cell phone offense; and
- You are able to provide proof that you have since acquired a hands-free accessory for your cell phone
From Our Perspective
We all have our views on the law, but from our perspective, the law is the law. In some cases, the laws are unfair and even unjust; however, they are in place for a reason. In this case, it’s to lower the number of handheld devices on the road that are distracting drivers and causing accidents.
If you are using a handheld device and are involved in an accident, the 3 points to your license could be devastating. Once you reach 5-7 points within 2 years, you must attend a driver improvement program. If you reach 8-11 points within 2 years, you must attend the driver improvement program as well as a suspended license. Anything past that and your driver’s license is revoked.
If you’re facing these penalties and feel that the accident was not caused by your use of a handheld mobile device, then contact us to discuss your case. As a Maryland car accident lawyer, we will work out what the best options are for you and fight it in court if necessary.