07 Sep New Driving Laws in Virginia
Effective July 1, 2013 changes in Virginia laws will impact drivers who use cell phones for texting and emails and drivers charged with DUI.
Texting While Driving is a Primary Offense
Before today, Virginia law enforcement could only ticket drivers for texting as a secondary offense, which meant a driver had to be stopped for another reason, after which the “texting-while-driving” offense was be charged. Effective July 1, 2013, if you are seen driving and texting, you may be stopped by police and ticketed if you were texting or emailing. It is still legal to use a phone’s GPS app, to dial a phone number or use a “talk to text” app (that does not require typing while driving). Many law enforcement officers interviewed by news outlets express confidence that they can already distinguish between drivers using phones for texting versus other legal uses. Expect police to begin ticketing motorists on July 1, 2013 and DO NOT text and drive! The first offense is a $125 fine and there is a $250 fine for subsequent offenses.
This new law gives police a huge opportunity to stop any car, which could lead to tickets, fines and arrests for other less obvious infractions such as driving on a suspended license, DUI, possession of illegal substances and more.
Can I Refuse to Hand Over my Phone?
Drivers may refuse to turn over the phone to police. Police may ask to see it and will want to check the time stamp on text messages to use as evidence of the infraction. Drivers may legally refuse but can still be ticketed based on the officer’s observation. It is then up to the driver to convince the judge in court that he or she was not breaking the law, or face a $250 fine.
Punishment for killing or maiming for someone while driving under the influence and for those with previous DUI convictions will now include a minimum one year jail sentence.
Any person convicted of a felony DUI offense (including DUI manslaughter and DUI maiming, by motor vehicle or watercraft) is guilty of a Class 6 felony for any subsequent DUI conviction, that punishment includes a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one year, and the person is subject to the same driver’s license revocation provision as for a third or subsequent DUI conviction within 10 years, which means that the person can petition for reinstatement of his driver’s license five years after the date of his last conviction.
Be aware of the new tougher laws in Virginia that start today, to prevent trouble down the road. We know even with tougher penalties, not all drivers will adhere to the laws. If you are injured in an accident caused by a drunk or distracted driver, contact The Paullin Law Firm and get an experienced personal injury attorney on your side right away.