On April 12 of this year, newly-elected Governor Tim Walz signed into law the new Minnesota Hands-Free Law, which broadly prohibits the handheld use of one’s cellular device while driving or operating a motor vehicle. (See https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/hands-free/Pages/default.aspx). The law goes into effect on August 1, 2019 and will remain in effect unless and until the legislature passes a bill to the contrary. The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts, and get directions; but only via voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone.
Can Police Officers Search Your Vehicle After Violating the Hands-Free Law?
As a citizen of Minnesota, I think this is a fine piece of legislation. All too often, I observe people driving next to me staring at the phone in their hand while travelling 65 mph on the highway. It is infuriating. As an attorney though, the Hands-Free Law essentially gives law enforcement officials a new basis to stop your vehicle. Namely, if they see a phone in your hand while you are driving or operating your motor vehicle, an officer now has the authority to stop your vehicle and investigate if you are in violation of this law. Further, once you are lawfully stopped and based on the officer’s observations, the officer can now investigate violations of any kind. Herein lies the rub.
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Law Enforcement Will Be Looking for Drivers Using Their Phone
I predict that law enforcement will use the Hands Free law as a similar foot-in-the-door technique that they utilized with the mandatory seat belt law – officers will aggressively be stopping any driver that could possibly be in violation. State patrol, city law enforcement, and county sheriffs will be stopping any and all drivers that have a cell phone in their hand on August 1, 2019 and after. What’s more though is that they will absolutely be looking for drivers using their phone at night. The bright glow of your cell phone illuminating the cab of your vehicle will now serve as an ominous beacon for law enforcement’s attention. Thus, Minnesota will undoubtedly see an increase in DWI and drug possession arrests right away. When you are looking for the quickest route to the next brewery on your monthly brew tour, you are now in violation of Minnesota law and can be stopped accordingly. When you are looking for the perfect song to play while you and your friends on your way to the next bar, you can be stopped. Once you have been stopped, law enforcement is now authorized to expand the scope of that stop to investigate any additional violations of the law so long as it is reasonable to do so.
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If you’ve been caught using your phone while driving, let Leverson Budke present your best defense. Call us today at (651) 829-3572 or click below to schedule a consultation.
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