Although the big news out of Annapolis this session is the likely passing of a ban on Maryland motorists using cell phones while driving, the reality is the bill has little teeth! Under the bill poised to pass, it is unlawful for a motorist on Maryland roads to hold a cell phone while talking on it, to text or otherwise use the device while driving. It will be lawful to use a blue-tooth device to talk on the phone remotely.
What makes the bill toothless is that it is a secondary offense. This means that the police are NOT allowed to stop a motorist if the officer sees an infraction. The officer can only write up a ticket if the motorist commits a primary infraction, such as speeding, and only then can the officer issue a citation for using a cell phone while driving. Upon conviction for the cell phone offense, the motorist will receive a whopping $40.00 fine and no points.
The best guess is that it is only a matter of time before this becomes a primary offense. It was not too long ago in Maryland when proponents of the mandatory seat belt law agreed to make it a secondary offense to ensure passage by the legislature. Just a few years later, it became a primary offense with little fanfare. Now the police can pull anyone over by claiming the motorist was not wearing a seat-belt. As an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney, I am well aware of the significance this bill will likely have in further eroding civil liberties. It is only a matter of time until the cell phone law becomes a primary offense. Everyone has a cell phone, and everyone will soon be fair game for a traffic stop.