Cell Phone Tickets

How to Avoid a Cell Phone Ticket

In this episode of The Ultimate Traffic Lawyer Podcast I talk how to avoid a cell phone ticket.

Last week my wife got a cell phone ticket. I’ve told her time and time again that she needs to figure out a hands free solution to her driving and cell phone talking. She wasn’t that concerned about options until after getting the ticket. Amazing what a little $124 ticket can do.

So I thought I’d talk about her options, and yours, here, so maybe you can avoid the same fate she did.

In this Episode I Talk About:

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The Legalese Behind Non-Moving Violations

I had a conversation with an insurance agent the other day who sends us their clients when they get speeding tickets. This particular agency (I’ve talked about them a little bit before in this post) is pretty ahead of the game when it comes to customer service, and they figure a happy client is a client that will stick with them for a long time. Because of that, they encourage their clients to come to them whenever they have a car issues of any kind.

When people come to me I always tell them, “our job as a Seattle traffic lawyer is to keep your driving record clean. Period.” I then go on to tell them three are three general ways we can do that:

  1. We can get your ticket dismissed;
  2. We can get your ticket reduced to a non-moving violation; and
  3. We can get you a deferred ticket

Our first goal is always a dismissal – that way you don’t pay any money for the ticket, and you walk away scot free. But sometimes that can’t happen. In that case, we go for the non-moving violation. And that always seems to drum up a lot of questions.

Non-Moving Violations Explained

Contrary to popular belief, non-moving violations are very often violations that occur when the car is moving. Examples of this are inattentive driving, driving while talking on a cell phone, and driving without a seat belt. What makes these violations “non-moving” isn’t what happens when they occur, but what the law says.

WAC 308-104-160 lists all of the moving violations in the state of Washington. Click here to see that list. If the infraction isn’t on that list, then it’s not a moving violation.

What separates the moving violation from the non-moving violation is the way it’s treated by the court and by the Department of Licensing (DOL). Whereas a speeding ticket in Seattle is reported to the DOL, non-moving violations are not. And, in fact, some infractions are specifically ordered not to be reported to the DOL or to insurance companies. Let’s take a look at those.

Seattle Seat Belt Infraction Broken Down

By the way, this type of discussion we’re having today is the exact reason you hire a traffic lawyer to help you fight your ticket. We know this stuff. We use it for you. It’s what makes us good at our jobs.

The seat belt law is outlined in RCW 46.61.688. You can read it here. The key to the seatbelt law is the language in section 5, which says, specifically:

(5) A person violating this section shall be issued a notice of traffic infraction under chapter 46.63 RCW. A finding that a person has committed a traffic infraction under this section shall be contained in the driver’s abstract but shall not be available to insurance companies or employers.

This means your insurer isn’t allowed to see seat belt infractions, no matter how many you get. And if they can’t see them, then they don’t count against you.

Inattention to Driving and You

Inattention to driving is not a state statute, but a local ordinance – hence it’s not a moving violation, and it too is not reported to DOL. That’s an easy one.

The Cell Phone Ticket Broken Down

Cell phone tickets are codified into law at RCW 46.61.667. You can read it here.

Section 6 of the cell phone law is the important part, and it says specifically:

Additionally, a finding that a person has committed a traffic infraction under this section shall not be made available to insurance companies or employers.

So, again, no one gets to see these.

Happy Fourth of July from the Seattle Ticket Kings!

No, I didn’t forget that it’s the 4th of July. I just wanted to get out all the helpful information before waxing nostalgia. This is a great day to remember that the United States of America, despite its many faults, is the greatest country in the world. No place is perfect, but no other place in the world provides the opportunities, the freedoms, and the living out of dreams that the U.S. does. I’m proud to be an American. And I’m proud to serve all of you every day.


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Driving While Texting Law Invades Washington

As far as rumors go, the driving while texting rumor floating around Seattle might be the biggest. I’ve talked to friends who think the Seattle cops can pull you over if they just see you driving and texting. I’ve talked to friends who think the Seattle cops can only cite you with driving while texting if they catch you for something else (the ominous secondary violation). And I’ve talked to friends who think the Seattle cops are out there looking for drivers who are texting to take them down. Well, today is your lucky day because I, a Seattle traffic attorney, am going to uncover the mystery that is driving while texting.

What Does the Driving While Texting Law Say?

To get to the bottom of driving while texting, I figured I would go to the source of all the confusion – the statute. Texting while driving and its illegality is governed by RCW 46.61.668. It was passed by the Washington State Legislature just this year. And here it is, summarized a bit by me:

    First, if you are operating a car and, by means of a cell phone, and not a permanently fixed GPS device, send, read, or write a text message, is guilty of a traffic infraction. If you are selecting, writing, or entering a phone number for the purposes of making a phone call, you are not deemed to be texting.

    Second, if you are in this select group of people doing these precise things, you are exempt from this law:

      authorized emergency vehicle; or

      a moving motor vehicle while using an electronic device to:

        (a) report illegal activity;

        (b) summon medical or other emergency help;

        (c) prevent injury to person or property; or

        (d) relay information between a transit operator and that operator’s dispatcher, where the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle.

To translate, you can’t drive while texting unless you are reporting an emergency, reporting illegal activity, or a transit operator. Otherwise, you are probably guilty of texting while driving, and need to call a Seattle traffic ticket defense attorney.

Texting While Driving Penalties

And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the penalty. I’m going to quote it here so you can see first hand that driving while texting is a secondary violation. Here is the exact language:

    (3) Enforcement of this section by law enforcement officers may be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of this title or an equivalent local ordinance or some other offense.

    (4) Infractions under this section shall not become part of the driver’s record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120. Additionally, a finding that a person has committed a traffic infraction under this section shall not be made available to insurance companies or employers.

Bottom line, driving while texting is a secondary violation, will probably only cost you fifty bucks, and can’t be used against you for insurance purposes or any other purposes.

What this New Law Really Means

One last thing before I go. Because it’s my job, I always look for the weak points in the law. And this law seems to have little teeth. Apart from texting, people can do many things with their phones – check email, write email (which isn’t technically texting), play on the internet, play games, read the newspaper. The list goes on and on. Under the language of the statute, this type of behavior doesn’t seem to be improper.

If you are cited and weren’t driving while texting but doing something else, it might be beneficial to get some help. Not only do we know the law, but we know how to persuasively present your case in conjunction with the law so the judge will understand where you are coming from.

About Me: Christopher Small is an attorney with Emerald City Traffic Defense. If you need help with traffic tickets, we can take care of you. If you’ve got questions, call today 206.651.4245.


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Seattle Traffic Lawyer | Cell Phone Ticket Law Ineffective

seattle traffic attorney - cell phone driving

In shocking news (hopefully the sarcasm oozes through the computer screen and onto you), Washington State Troopers today have admitted the law prohibiting motorists from talking on their cell phones while driving is largely being ignored.

The law, signed into law last year, makes it a Seattle traffic ticket to use a cell phone while driving, unless a hands free device is being used. Well, duh.

Why Isn’t Anyone Following the New Cell Phone Law?

What makes the law useless is that it is a secondary offense. This means that unless the police pull you over for something else (speeding, inattentive driving, failing to yield, etc.) they cannot cite you for the cell phone law (allegedly – ask any traffic lawyer and they’ll tell you they see these tickets all the time).

In reality it makes this law nonexistent.

Proof that the Washington State Cell Phone Ticket Law Sucks

That is reflected in the traffic citation numbers. For example, in Olympia, although 300,000 speeding tickets were issued, only 1600, or .005% of speeding stops, resulted in a cell phone traffic ticket.

The lesson here is to know what your secondary traffic violations are. If you are cited for a secondary traffic violation and nothing else, don’t call us – you don’t need our help. The ticket isn’t reported to DOL and your insurance is not affected.

About Christopher Small: I’m an attorney at Emerald City Law Group, and the author of the Emerald City Traffic Defense Blog. If you’ve got a speeding ticket and need it taken care of, give us a call at 206.651.4245.


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