A law regulating the use of cellphones while driving is something every driver in California needs to be aware of before getting behind the wheel. California drivers may not hold their cellphones while driving. The fact that laws prohibiting California drivers from calling or texting without a hands-free device already exist calls into question the purpose of the new stricter regulations and also the consequences of violating the new law.

In late December of 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1785 into law. The purpose of the statute is to close a loophole in the law which prohibits drivers from using handheld devices while on the road. Prior to the recent addition to the law, drivers caught holding a cell phone would claim they were operating their GPS, thereby avoiding a fine. California Highway Patrol Officer Juan Galvan explains that the new law will eliminate this excuse.

If you are driving in California, you must NOT be holding a cell phone for any reason. Searching for music, addresses, or setting up a GPS location are no longer permissible on hand-held devices. All activities which include the use of a cell phone must be limited to actions that require a single swipe of one finger to complete.

Below are some of the things you need to know in relation to this new law.


  • The fine issued to drivers for their first offense is $20.00.
  • The amount of a penalty for drivers committing their second offense is $50.00.
  • The fine for subsequent offenses of holding a cell phone while driving is also $50.00.

It is important to remember that although these fines may seem small to some people, these totals are just the base amounts. Expect the addition of other assessments, such as court costs, and the total owed increases considerably. The full cost of a first violation will typically exceed $150. The total for a second offense and subsequent infractions can cost over $250. However, note that violating the handheld cell phone ban would not result in the adding of points to the driver’s record.


  • Persons operating motor vehicles on private property may use hand-held cellular devices.
  • Authorized personnel including law enforcement, fire department staff, emergency response people, and emergency medical technicians have permission to use a portable cell phone.
  • Any driver in the State of California may use a hand-held device while attempting to call the fire department, a law enforcement agency, a medical provider, or an emergency service provider.


Unlike the previous law that did not permit law enforcement officers to stop drivers because of texting or placing a call while driving, this law gives officers the latitude to pull over a driver who is holding a cell phone.

Permitted Ways to Use a Cell Phone While Driving

  • Use of an integrated mobile phone system installed into the car
  • Use of the speaker option on a cell phone
  • Use of a Bluetooth and an earpiece, however, drivers must not use both ear pieces. One ear must remain open for safety reasons
  • All passengers may hold cell phones while in the car

Approved Mounting of Cell Phones

Those persons mounting a cell phone on the car for the driver’s convenience must adhere to the following conditions.

  • A mount on the center console of the vehicle
  • A mount on the lower left corner of the windshield
  • A mount on the lower right corner of the windshield
  • A dashboard mount

These options are all permissible. Drivers cannot hang devices from the rear view mirror or mount a cell phone in the center of the windshield. The driver’s view should not have obstructions for safety reasons.

Should you receive a citation regarding the use of handheld devices, one option is to contact a legal representative; an experienced attorney. Now that this law is official in California, drivers will likely change some of their old habits.

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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.