Ohio House Bill No. 468 was recently introduced which would overhaul Ohio’s distracted driving laws. Currently, Ohio Revised Code § 4511.204 makes driving while texting illegal. However, unless the individual is under the age of 18, this offense is considered a secondary offense Ohio as the statute specifically states that law enforcement cannot stop someone solely as a result of he or she texting while driving. A driver can only be stopped and charged with this offense in conjunction with another traffic offense, such as speeding or going left of center.
However, H.B. 468 not only would allow an officer to stop a driver of any age for texting, but it would also expand the offense to also include playing games on the phone or using any apps on the phone. As criminal defense attorneys, this is greatly concerning from the perspective that then any usage of a cellphone could lead to an officer stopping an individual. Although the law makes exceptions for individuals using searching for a contact to call or receiving messages for navigational purposes, from our view it seems that even the legal uses for a phone could be viewed by the officer as illegal and, in turn, used to justify a traffic stop. Realistically, how is an officer on the side of the road going to know whether you are sending a text, typing in a number to call, playing a game, or using the Waze app? As a result, this offense could be used to justify a pretextual stop for individuals suspected of other offenses such as OVI’s.
While this bill is not yet law, it could certainly impact drivers down the road and create the potential justification for officers to stop more individuals. If you have been charged with texting with driving please feel free to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers for a free consultation.