The offence of driving whilst using a mobile phone is becoming an ever more common offence in the new age of smart phones and hand held devices.
The law on using a mobile phone whist driving changed as of 1st March 2017 when harsher penalties were introduced. Anybody now caught using their mobile phone whilst driving will now face 6 penalty points and a £200 fine and in cases where people have been caught twice within a 3-year period, this will result in a 6 month driving disqualification and a fine of up to £1000 or £2500 for those driving a bus, coach or HGV!
The law states that to be guilty of this offence the device “is, or must be, held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function”.
What is an interactive communication function and what if the device wasn’t being actually held?
Handheld devices don’t just include mobile phones, using any handheld electronic device is covered by the same offence. This therefore means satellite navigation systems, iPods and any other computer equipment would be covered within the offence.
Operating such devices whilst driving, even if you are sat stationery in traffic or at a red light would constitute an offence. You don’t actually have to be making or receiving a call. In fact, texting, using apps and/or social media, using the satellite navigation on a phone would amount to interactive communication.
The new legislation provides that you can use a mobile phone whilst driving if using a hands-free kit. However, this would only be legal in cases where the device could be operated without holding it. If you had to take your hands off the wheel to use the device then this would be illegal and you would be committing an offence. Even touching or pressing a button on the phone is not allowed!
I wasn’t using my phone whilst driving – how can I challenge the offence?
If you do not believe you committed the offence in which the police allege, you have the right to have your case referred to the Magistrates Court to deal with. You would then have the opportunity to challenge the case at court.
The prosecution have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were actually driving and using the phone. For example, a police officer will give evidence to say that he or she seen you driving whilst holding a mobile phone up to your ear. The key to cases of this nature if to put some doubt in the mind of the Court to try and obtain a guilty verdict. We can also obtain your call records from your telephone provider to prove you were not making or receiving a call.
If the prosecution think that they may not succeed with a mobile phone offence they can always lay an alternative charge of not being in proper control of a vehicle. In addition, in cases where the police think you are being distracted by a device whilst you are driving but you are not touching the device, you could still be stopped and prosecuted for not being in proper control of your vehicle. This offence carries a lesser penalty of 3 penalty points and a £100 fine.
Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, the prosecution may also be willing to lay this alternative charge, which in turn would result in a lesser penalty and even avoid a disqualification from driving.
I can’t afford to have so many penalty points on my licence – what are my options?
It is also worth bearing in mind that totting up 12 points on your driving licence within a three-year period can incur a minimum of 6-month disqualification from driving.
Or if you are a ‘new driver’, incurring 6 points within the first two years of passing your driving test, you could have your licence revoked and you would have to re-take your driving test!
Totting up 12 points or having your licence revoked can have disastrous consequences for your future.
This is a complicated area of law, which is why you will need a specialist motoring law specialist like Gray & Co to help you. There are ways of avoiding penalty points and in turn disqualifications although you will need the experts to consider and prepare your case to obtain the best possible outcome available to you.
Call us on 01244 344299 or complete our contact form for legal advice specific to your circumstances. It’s worth the call to see what your options are. We have dealt with many mobile phone cases in the past and know the best loopholes and arguments to put forward to the Court to increase your chances of acquittal and keep those points off your licence.
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