As technology continues to advance and play an ever-increasing role in our lives, the issue of distracted driving has become a pressing concern. In response to this, the state of Michigan recently enacted new legislation to address the growing problem and promote safer roads. As a criminal defense law firm, we understand the importance of being well-versed in these laws to provide effective representation to individuals facing charges related to distracted driving. In this blog post, we will delve into the specifics of Michigan's new distracted driving laws, offering insights and guidance from a legal perspective.
- The Definition of Distracted Driving: Under Michigan law, distracted driving encompasses any use of “a mobile electronic device” to do any task, including but not limited to: making or receiving a telephone call; sending, receiving, or reading a text message; viewing, recording, or transmitting a video; and accessing, reading, or posting to a social networking site.
- The Hands-Free Law: One of the key aspects of Michigan's new legislation is the implementation of a hands-free law, which prohibits the use of handheld electronic devices while operating a vehicle. This means drivers are not allowed to hold their phones or other electronic devices in their hands, arms, or shoulders while driving, except in specific emergency situations. Instead, hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth headsets or voice-activated systems, must be used for communication purposes.
- Primary Offense: The new legislation makes distracted driving a “primary offense,” meaning a police officer is able to pull someone over and ticket them based only on the suspicion of distracted driving. However, police officers are not allowed to search an individual based solely on this violation.
- Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving: Michigan's new legislation introduces enhanced penalties for drivers who engage in distracted driving. In non-commercial vehicles, a first offense is punishable by a $100 fine and/or 16 hours of community service. A second or subsequent violation carries a $250 fine and/or 24 hours of community service. Three violations within a three-year period result in a mandatory driver-improvement course. The penalties are more severe if someone engages in distracted driving while operating a commercial vehicle. If a traffic crash occurs and the at-fault driver was holding or using a cell phone while driving, the fines are doubled.
- Exceptions and Potential Defenses: While the new distracted driving laws provide for stiffer penalties than previous laws have imposed, there may be certain exceptions and potential defenses available to individuals facing charges. For example, emergency situations that require immediate communication or reporting a crime may be considered valid defenses. Drivers may also use their phones, but only in a hands-free capacity. Additionally, if there is insufficient evidence to prove that the driver was engaging in distracted driving, a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to challenge the charges.
- Effective date: Michigan's new distracted driving laws take effect June 30, 2023.
Michigan's new distracted driving laws signal the state's commitment to addressing the growing concern of accidents caused by driver distraction. As a criminal defense firm, it is crucial for us to stay up-to-date with these laws and provide effective representation to individuals who find themselves facing charges related to distracted driving. By understanding the specific details of the legislation, potential exceptions, and available defenses, we can help you navigate the legal landscape to protect your rights and interests. If you or someone you know is facing charges related to distracted driving, it is essential to seek the guidance of a qualified criminal defense attorney who can provide expert advice and ensure a fair and just legal process.