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Is it illegal to use your phone while driving in Minnesota?

Effective August 1, 2019, drivers in Minnesota will need to use hands-free devices if they want to talk on their mobile devices. The bill passed both the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Minnesota Senate, and was signed by Governor Walz on April 12th. Minnesota joins a growing number of other states, and the District of Columbia, in passing a hands-free law.

The new law bans motorists from holding a phone while driving. It is still legal to talk on the phone, or use your phone for navigation or music, as long as it can be operated hands-free or with single touch activation. For example, it will now be illegal to hold a phone to dial a phone number, scroll through anything on your phone, or type an address for navigation, even while stopped at a stop light or stop sign. Simply put, it will be illegal to hold a phone at any time while operating a motor vehicle, with one very limited exception. It will not be illegal for a motorist to make a call to emergency services. A first time violation of the law will result in a $50 fine plus court fees, and any subsequent violations will result in a $275 fine plus court fees.

The law was passed with the hopes of reducing distracted driving, and to ultimately reduce the amount of distracted driving accidents. Cellphones are an overwhelming cause of distracted driving incidents. The families of victims killed or injured by distracted drivers have been pushing for a hands-free law in Minnesota for many years. The Minnesota Department of Public safety published that at least 27 of approximately 380 traffic deaths in 2018 were related to distractions, but the number is likely higher. The Department of Public Safety also says that in 12 out of 15 states with hands-free laws, traffic fatalities have decreased by an average of 15 percent. The new law will also make it easier for law enforcement officers to spot people in violation of the law.

At Rinke Noonan we have experienced criminal defense attorneys up-to-date on these revisions and all things criminal defense. Please contact us if you have been cited for distracted driving, or any other criminal offense. We would be happy to assist you.