Rhode Island Text Messaging While Driving

With the increase in cell phone related auto accidents, state and local police departments in Rhode Island have started cracking down on text messaging while driving.  If you have been issued a traffic ticket for texting while driving, call the experienced Rhode Island Traffic Ticket lawyers at Abilheira Law today.  Our aggressive lawyers have the skills to fight your ticket.

What constitutes texting while driving in Rhode Island?

Under Rhode Island General Law § 31-22-30, it is illegal to write, read or send a text message while driving a motor vehicle in Rhode Island.

Text Messaging not only includes traditional text messages, but also includes reading, writing or sending instant messages, electronic messages and e-mails.

How is driving defined in the text messaging statute?

Driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle on any street or highway in Rhode Island.

Drivers can also be cited for this violation not only for texting while “driving” but also for texting while they are temporarily stopped because of traffic, a traffic light, or stop sign.

However, the law does not prohibit individuals from text messaging while their vehicle is pulled over to the side of, or off, an active roadway and has stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary.

Does using a GPS constitute as text messaging while driving?

In the past, Traffic Tribunal judges in Rhode Island interpreted the text messaging statute to preclude motorists from using GPS devices while driving.  However, in 2017, legislatures closed this gap by amending the law to specifically state that “activating, viewing, or deactivating a global positioning or navigation device or a global positioning or navigation application” is not prohibited under the law.

What are the penalties for texting while driving?

Any person convicted of text messaging while driving in Rhode Island shall the following penalties:

  • 1st offense: $100.00 fine and/or a license suspension of up to thirty (30) days
  • 2nd offense: $150.00 fine and/or a license suspension of up to three (3) months
  • 3rd or subsequent offense: $250.00 fine and/or a license suspension for up to six (6) months

Traffic tribunal judges also have the authority to add court costs to the above fines and to order a motorist to complete a driver retaining course for a text messaging violation.

Can I pay my text messaging ticket by mail in Rhode Island?

No, text messaging violations are not eligible to be paid by mail in Rhode Island.  Instead, you must appear in court for a mandatory court appearance.

Why did I receive a court summons for a text messaging violation?

In Rhode Island, all text messaging violations carry a mandatory court appearance at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.  This is because of the nature of the offense and penalties, including a possible license suspension, even on a first offense.

Will I have to appear in court for a text messaging violation?

Yes, as stated above, these violations require a mandatory court appearance.  Therefore, you will need to appear in court or hire a Rhode Island traffic ticket lawyer to appear on your behalf. If you fail to appear, you will be defaulted or found guilty in absentia.  Normally, judges will impose stricter penalties on those who fail to appear in court.

Can I use the Rhode Island Good Driving Statute to dismiss my text messaging violation?

Some judges at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal will allow motorists to dismiss their text messaging violations under the good driving statute, while others will not.  If your ticket is dismissed under the good driving statute, you will pay mandatory court costs of $63.25 rather than the fines listed above.

How long will a text messaging violation be on my driving record in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, a conviction for text messaging while driving will appear on a motorist’s driving record for a period of three (3) years.  The three (3) year period is calculated from the date of conviction and not the date of the offense.

Should I hire a Rhode Island traffic ticket lawyer to fight my text messaging violation in Rhode Island?

Yes! The attorneys at Abilheira Law defend motorists against traffic tickets on a daily basis and have the knowledge and experience to successfully resolve these cases.  Our traffic ticket lawyers pride themselves on consistent and clear communication with clients, keeping them informed at all stages of the court process.

Contact the Rhode Island traffic ticket lawyers at Abilheira Law today if you have been charged with text messaging while driving.  Our attorneys will provide a free and confidential consultation and will fight to beat your texting violation!