California appellate court allows looking at your smartphone while driving

February 28

Last year, I blogged about a California trial court opinion holding that a driver who looked at his cell phone’s map application while on the road violated a California law against driving while “using a wireless telephone.”   I didn’t find the decision persuasive. Fortunately, reason has prevailed: In a decision handed down Thursday, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court in People v. Spriggs. From the introduction:

Spriggs contends he did not violate the statute because he was not talking on the telephone. We agree. Based on the statute’s language, its legislative history, and subsequent legislative enactments, we conclude that the statute means what it says – it prohibits a driver only from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it. Consequently, we reverse his conviction.

The correct result, in my view.

Orin Kerr is the Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor at The George Washington University Law School, where he has taught since 2001. He teaches and writes in the area of criminal procedure and computer crime law. Kerr is a former law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy at the U.S. Supreme Court. From 1998 to 2001, he was a Trial Attorney in the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2013, Chief Justice Roberts appointed Kerr to a 3-year term on the Advisory Committee for the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. You can follow him on Twitter @orinkerr.
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