gps-driving-2-1035921-mMany states have passed laws making it illegal to speak or text using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle, unless they are using a hands free device. Drivers who violate this law are issued a 23123(a) ticket. This ticket comes with a hefty fine as well as a mark on your driving record, which can lead to consequences such as higher insurance rates or even the loss of a job.


The Impact of Cell Phone Laws

Thousands of people have had to pay this fine after being pulled over for using their cell phones. In some areas, this type of ticket has become a substantial source of revenues for local governments. However, that may be changing soon because the courts have changed the standard of evidence needed to fine citizens for cell phone use.

Cell Phone Usage and People Vs. Spriggs

Many people, including police officers, interpret cell phone laws to apply to one and all cases of cell phone use while driving. However, one man challenged this conception and won his case in appeal.

  • Spriggs was a normal driver who one day found himself stuck in a traffic jam.
  • While at a complete stop due to the traffic backup, he looked at a map on his phone.
  • He was only trying to find an alternate route using his cell phone so he could escape the traffic jam.

An Unfair Ticket

A police officer saw Spriggs doing this and issued him a 23123(a) ticket.

  • Spriggs challenged this in traffic court.
  • The traffic court judge upheld the ticket, as did the superior court.
  • However, with the help of a legal firm, he appealed the case in appellate court and won his case.

The Result Of People Vs. Spriggs

Because of this ruling by the appeals court;

  • The onus lies on the police to prove that the person issued a 23213(a) ticket was using his or her cell phone to either call or text, rather than simply saying that the driver was using a cell phone.
  • Drivers may now be able to successfully fight cases in traffic court by challenging the police to prove they were using their phone in an illegal way.

How Spriggs Won His Appeal

There are several elements to Spriggs’ case that made it easier to win. These factors may increase the chances of other drivers winning similar cases.

  • He was using his cell phone for a map. Paper map use is not illegal, so cell phone maps also should be allowed.
  • His vehicle was at a full stop while he was checking the map, and thus did not put at risk the safety of other drivers and pedestrians.
  • He did not commit any other ticketable offense.

Can Other People Win Similar Cases?

Legal precedent is an important part of law. If a court has ruled that a law only applies in a certain way or in certain circumstances, other people can argue that this exception applies to their cases.

  • The California Attorney General has not appealed this case nor changed the laws to include all cell phone use, so there is a solid precedent suggesting that police should prove that a cell phone user was using their phone to talk or text in order for the driver to pay a fine.

You may be able to win similar cases by citing this precedent.

Because of People vs. Spriggs, some courts may ask the police officer issuing the ticket to prove the driver was using their phone specifically for talking or texting. This case may also be extremely valuable for the reference of other drivers who want to fight their 23123(a) ticket.


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Scott Desind

Scott Desind | Traffic Ticket Attorneys The Traffic Ticket Attorneys, Desind and Klijian, have over 25 years of experience fighting traffic tickets. Our attorneys are well respected and known for their experience in fighting traffic tickets, specialized knowledge of the law and procedures and results by the court personnel, officers, deputies, competitors and clients.