If I’m pulled over for texting and driving in Florida, can a cop search my phone?: NOPE, says Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney
No, a cop cannot search your phone if you’re pulled over or caught for texting and driving. The Florida texting and driving law statute includes built-in safeguards to protect those who are pulled over, including the fact that an officer must inform you of your right to decline a search of your device.
It is illegal for a cop to access or search your cellular device without a search warrant.
Florida police also cannot confiscate your cell phone or device while waiting for a search warrant and cops cannot coerce you to submit to an unlawful search of your cell phone in Florida. If police ask to see or search your phone or your car, politely tell them "no."
Police officers also cannot search your car in Florida without either a search warrant OR your consent. Even if you have absolutely "nothing to hide" - we suggest you still say "no" to a police search of your car and your phone, body, home, etc. It doesn't make you sketchy or suspicious. Saying no to an unwarranted (literally) search simply means that you know and are using your constitutional rights.
PS - you might be interested in our other blog: Florida Police are calling me and want to talk - what do I do?
More on texting and driving in Florida...
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.
There are also some unintended consequences. For instance, there is no real, accurate way to prove a person was on their phone at the time they were pulled over. Body cameras would help, but they are not 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. Something like this could potentially turn into a method to pull people over to then start a late night DUI investigation, which could lead to the illegal arrest 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.
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 an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney, like the award-winning attorneys at the Rossen Law Firm, to help represent your case and achieve the best result.