Can I text while driving my Tesla in autopilot? South Florida criminal defense attorney says YES
Yes, you can text while 'driving' your car or Tesla in autopilot in Florida.
The Florida texting and driving law statute says the regulations which forbid texting and driving do not apply when “operating an autonomous vehicle, with the automated driving system engaged.”
So, lucky to any of you Floridians with a Tesla! Being able to text while 'driving' with your Tesla in autopilot is one of the very few exceptions to Florida's 'no texting while driving' law.
Texting while ACTUALLY driving in Florida... that's a whole other story:
We’re all likely guilty of breaking this new Florida traffic Law.
Every once in a while, even the safest of drivers divert their attention from the road to their phone screen when a new text message pops up.
Whether it's responding to an email or checking who saw your last Instagram story, most of us have tried to navigate traffic or change lanes while looking at our cell phone screens.
Back on July 1, 2019, a new Florida Law, which made texting and driving a primary offense, came into effect. This means police officers can now pull you over for just texting. In the past, texting and driving was a secondary offense and people could not be stopped for doing it alone. You needed to commit a specific traffic violation before being stopped and pulled over by law enforcement.
With the start of 2020, Florida police officers have finished their period of informing and educating the public about the new law. As of Jan. 1, police officers will now be enforcing the law and pulling people over for texting while driving.
To be pulled over by police for texting and driving in Florida, a person must actually have their phone in their hand. According to the 2019 Florida Statute, a person cannot drive while “manually typing or entering letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters” into a phone. Similarly, they must not be using “communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, or instant messaging.”
Consequences for violating the Florida Texting and Driving law
A first offense for texting and driving can result in a $30 fine, while a second offense may result in a $60 fine. Additionally, points will be added to people’s licenses and court costs may increase the fine to $108.
Unintended consequences of Florida's new texting and driving law
Although this law is well intentioned and will certainly save lives, as a criminal defense lawyer, I have some reservations about the law.
There is no real, accurate way to prove a person was on their phone at the time they were pulled over — body cameras would not be enacted until the actual stop. This gives police officers leeway to pull people over and cite the reason as texting, even if this was not truly the case. This could potentially turn into rouse to pull people over and start late night DUI investigations, leading to the illegal arrests of hundreds of people.
We fear Florida's texting and driving law could become another way that police have unjust and race-based policing efforts.
Learn more about the dangers of unintending consequences of Florida's texting and driving law here.
What to do if cited for texting and driving
If you are pulled over by police and cited for texting and driving, you should always be calm and polite to the police. You have the right not to say anything to them, and you should not feel pressured into admitting guilt.
Most importantly, if you do get ticketed for texting and driving, you should hire Rossen Law Firm’s trained Criminal Defense Attorneys to help represent your case.