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New Penalties for Texting While Driving in Illinois

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2020 | DUI & Traffic Defense |

As of July 1, 2020, Illinois drivers face harsher penalties for texting while driving. Commonly referred to as “distracted driving,” using a handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle has been illegal in Illinois for years. The new penalties are the latest in a series of increasingly strict rules regarding cell phone use in cars. If you’ve been fined for or received a suspended license for a texting while driving violation, contact a criminal defense attorney today.

Timeline of distracted driving laws
Illinois first banned texting while driving back in 2010. Then, in 2014, drivers were required to use a hands-free device if they wanted to talk on their cell phones while driving. However, these violations only resulted in warnings, until then-Governor Bruce Rauner signed new legislation in 2018. Several additional legislative changes followed shortly thereafter:

  • July 1, 2019: Governor Rauner’s legislation went into effect. Cell phone calls and texting while driving became an official moving violation. First-time offenders faced a $75 fine; second-time offenders faced a $100 fine; third-time offenders faced a $125 fine. License suspensions were given to drivers with three moving violations within a 365 day period.
  • July 19, 2019: Governor J.B. Pritzker signed new legislation outlining aggravated use of an electronic communication device (625 ILCS 5/12-610.2). It stated that if using an electronic device while driving causes an accident that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement to a person other than the driver, it’s considered a Class A Misdemeanor. If the result is death, it’s considered a Class 4 Felony.

New laws in 2020
Effective July 1, 2020 (just two weeks ago), the state of Illinois has taken these laws even farther. Now, if texting while driving causes an accident that results in the great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement of another person, the driver automatically faces a minimum $1,000 fine and a 12-month license suspension. This is in addition to the Class A Misdemeanor charge.

For clarification, electronic devices also include tablets, smartwatches, laptops, and any type of electronic palm pilot. Global positioning systems (GPS devices) do not count as electronic devices.

It’s also important to note there are times when using a handheld cell phone to text or make a phone call is allowed. These include:

  • Calling 911 in the event of an emergency and staying on the phone with first responders.
  • Making phone calls with a hands-free headset or phone mount.
  • Texting or calling while stopped on the shoulder.
  • Texting or calling while in neutral or park during a traffic jam.

Drivers under 19 years old are not allowed to use cell phones in the car at any time, whether they are hands-free or not, according to Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/12-610.1. The same statute forbids drivers of any age from using cellphones in any way while driving in school zones and construction zones.

If you or someone you know is facing charges for texting while driving, distracted driving, or any of the violations listed above, contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates for a free consultation.