The issue of texting while driving has received much attention throughout the past few years. Research has conclusively demonstrated that sending and reading text messages while driving can lead to accidents on the highways. In response, many states, including Georgia, have prohibited drivers from texting while driving.
Georgia law prohibits a driver from operating a motor vehicle on roadways while using "a wireless communication device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data." This means Georgia drivers are prohibited from using cell phones, tablets, or any other communication device to send/receive text messages or e-mails, using social media apps or any other similar functions.
It is important to note that law prohibits use of communication devices while operating a vehicle. This does not mean that your vehicle is in motion - you don't have to be actively driving to get a ticket for this offense. In fact, in 2013, a Gwinnett County police officer made news for issuing over 800 tickets (more than any other officer in the state of Georgia) for prohibited use of a communication device- all while drivers were stopped at a red light.
Unlawful Use of a Communication Device and DUI
What does unlawful use of a communication device have to do with a DUI charge? The most important part of this law is that if an officer suspects a driver may be using a cell phone (or other communication device) in a prohibited manner, there is reasonable articulable suspicion to pull the car over and begin a DUI investigation. Even if you were not breaking this law, as long as the officer has a legitimate reason to pull you over (such as suspicion of texting while driving) is irrelevant. You are subject to arrest just like a driver who has been pulled over for any other reason.
What About Using Google Maps?
Since the proliferation of smartphones, many more drivers use mobile navigation apps (such as Google Maps) rather than purchasing a separate GPS navigation device, such as those that mount on a car window. Is there an exception to the law that allows drivers to use these apps? No. In fact, some Georgia drivers who had been issued a ticket by that Gwinett County police officer complained that they weren't using their phones to text; they were only stopping at a red light to check Google Maps, a behavior that many driver would be surprised to know could lead to a traffic infraction.
Officer Myers denotes the distinction between a phone app (such as Google Maps) and a Tom Tom or Garmin GPS device that mounts to a car window. He stated that the former does constitute a violation of Georgia distracted driving law, while the latter is permitted. The takeaway lesson from this is if you do need any type of navigation assistance while driving, it's best to stick to the more old-school method of a window-mountable GPS device to avoid giving the police a reason to be able to pull you over.
It is important to realize that just because an officer has a legitimate reason to pull you over (such as texting while driving) and charges you with driving under the influence following a DUI investigation, you are not automatically guilty of the offense. An experienced DUI defense attorney knows there are many places where a case may be weak. The right legal strategies can help get charges reduced or even dropped. If you are facing DUI charges in the Atlanta area, give my firm a call anytime, day or night.