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Penalties and fines for texting and driving in Michigan

November 20, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Now that Michigan law has imposed a texting ban, one common question our lawyers receive is, “What are the penalties for texting and driving?”

The Michigan texting while driving ban prohibits reading, typing or sending text messages using a wireless two-way communication device in a person’s hand or lap while driving a car.

You can read the full statute here.

As of now, the Michigan texting law only imposes fines on drivers. But that’s not the end of the story. There are many other factors that come into play if someone is hurt or killed in a car crash that involves distracted driving, such as texting on a phone. These additional factors will fall under existing Michigan criminal and civil laws, and the penalties can be severe.

If you’re caught texting and driving:

Under the Michigan texting ban law, texting and driving is classified as a primary offense, meaning you can be pulled over and ticketed just for texting.

Violators face a fine of $100 for the first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.

A traffic ticket for texting doesn’t come with points, and will not become part of a driver’s permanent record.

If you’re a truck driver and you’re texting and driving:

Truck drivers have different rules when in Michigan, according to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ban, which is different from Michigan’s texting bans). The ban states that commercial truck drivers are not allowed to use cell phones while driving.

In other words, no texting, no talking on speaker, no surfing the Internet and no talking on the cell phone.

There are Federal civil penalties up to $2,750 for each offense. Commercial truck and bus companies face a maximum penalty of $11,000.

States will also suspend a truck driver’s commercial drivers license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations and disqualify a trucker for multiple offenses.

If you kill someone in a texting and driving crash:

If you kill someone in a crash that’s caused by texting and driving in Michigan, you will face fines and your license will be revoked.

You also face a one-year maximum of jail time, under the charges of a moving violation causing death. Prosecutors say that texting while driving falls under this current law.

For example, Jeremy Griffin — who slammed his snowplow into a teenager while allegedly distracted driving, killing him at the scene after his legs were amputated — was placed on probation for six months in Muskegon, Michigan in February 2012. He also was given 60 hours of community service and $850 in fines, fees and costs.

In addition to fines, jail and revocation of your license, the victim’s family can also sue you for third-party pain and suffering damages for your negligence. This is part of a civil lawsuit, and falls under Michigan’s existing auto accident laws — if the crash involves a motor vehicle.

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