Everyone’s been there. You’re on a long drive, and suddenly your phone lights up. Maybe it’s an important email from your boss or a serious text message from your significant other. No matter who the sender is, all texts have one thing in common: they can wait.

While drivers nationwide should understand the dangers of texting and driving, California residents could find themselves in serious trouble when taking this risk. If you’re a citizen of the Golden State, here’s everything you need to know about the texting and driving California fine.

What Are the Laws?

Since 2019, using a cellphone while driving has been illegal in California. While distracted driving offenses always posed the risk of a fine from a texting ticket, they were not punishable by adding a point to your driving record.

However, in January 2020, California passed a statewide law implementing harsher punishments for texting while driving. The new law—which goes into effect on July 1, 2021—states that any driver convicted of two cellphone offenses within a 36 month period will receive a point on their record.

What is a Point?

Points are used to punish drivers for violations and accidents. A traffic ticket may result in one or two points, and an accident typically carries one point. Once you reach a certain number of points, you may risk losing your license entirely. The maximum amount of points you can earn before facing license suspension are:

  • 4 or more points within 12 months

  • 6 or more points within 24 months

  • 8 or more points within 36 months

Even a single point can raise a driver’s auto insurance cost. Since the average car insurance California premiums are already pretty pricey, the last thing you want is a driving offense raising them even more!

California Driver’s Tip – Talking on a cellphone and texting are both considered distracted driving under California law. For drivers under 18 years old, using a hands free device—such as Bluetooth—is also considered illegal while driving.

Texting and Driving in California: Fines

In addition to points, distracted drivers also risk receiving a California fine for texting and driving. While several factors can affect the price of your ticket, the baseline fines for cellphone use are as follows:

  • First offense – For your first distracted driving offense, you’ll receive a baseline fine of $20.

  • Further offenses – For a second offense or more, you’ll be subject to a baseline fine of $50.

  • State Fees – In addition to the baseline fines, the state of California adds two state fees to every traffic ticket. The first is known as the “state penalty” fee, which adds an extra $10 to every baseline $10 and essentially doubles most fines. The second is called the “DNA Identification Fund,” which adds an extra $5 for every $10 baseline fine.

  • Other Assessments – Distracted driving fines may be adjusted based on other assessments, as well. These factors are typically based on the regional budget and will vary from county-to-county.

So, while a $20 or $50 fine may not seem so bad, California drivers should be wary of the additional fees and assessments that can come along with a distracted driving ticket. Your first offense may be upwards of $150, and subsequent tickets could cost you $250 or more.

California Driver’s Tip – There are a limited number of exceptions to California’s distracted driving law. Those driving on private property or using a wireless device to make an emergency 911 call will not be subject to these fines.

What Do You Do Following a Texting Violation?

Once you’ve received your texting and driving California fine, you may be required to make a court appearance. California drivers have three options following a traffic ticket:

  • Pleading guilty – A guilty plea will have simple repercussions. The driver will ultimately pay the fine and have the necessary points added to their license by the DMV.

  • Pleading not guilty – A not guilty plea can be a bit more complicated. This will result in a longer court hearing, and you’ll need to prove your innocence to a judge. Hiring a lawyer may be helpful in this case. Drivers are still required to pay their fines if they plead not guilty, though their money will be returned if they are found innocent.

  • Pleading no contest – A plea of no contest will have similar repercussions to a guilty plea. The difference here is that a no contest plea cannot be used against you in any future court proceedings.

California Drivers Tip – Drivers may be able to remove violations and points from their driving record if they agree to take a California traffic class. Approval from the court will be required in order to fulfill this step.

It’s Not Worth It

At the end of the day, texting while driving simply isn’t worth the risks. Not only will California drivers pay harsh fines and potentially higher insurance premiums, but distracted driving poses dangers to yourself and others on the road.

You may be wondering why is California car insurance so expensive? If you’re already struggling to afford expensive auto insurance, Online Auto Insurance can help. We’re here to get you the California car insurance requirements you need, at a price that won’t break the bank. We will help you find who has the cheapest car insurance in California while still giving you optimal coverage. Start saving today, and remember to keep your eyes on the road!

Sources:

Ticket Bust. New California Cell Phone Law.\ https://ticketbust.com/new-california-cell-phone-law-2020

Driving Laws.org. California’s Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws.\ https://www.drivinglaws.org/sb1613.php

Driving Laws.org. How Traffic Ticket Fines are Calculated in California. https://www.drivinglaws.org/resources/how-traffic-ticket-fines-are-calculated-california.htm

IDriveSafely. Traffic Tickets and Violations in California.\ https://www.idrivesafely.com/dmv/california/laws/traffic-tickets-and-violations/