It is now illegal in Nevada to drive while handling a cell phone or other electronic device such as a tablet computer. Penalties may include fines and a possible license suspension.
On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain which cell phone usages are prohibited while driving in Nevada. Scroll down to learn about law, standard defenses and possible punishments.
It is a crime in Nevada to physically handle a cell phone or other electronic device such as a tablet while driving. A good rule of thumb is never to take a hand off the steering wheel or eyes off the road to operate the phone or device. Note that it is legal to drive while speaking on a cell phone via a "hands-free" instrument such as a Bluetooth earpiece or headphones.
Using a phone as a GPS
Drivers who use their phones as a GPS are advised to program the location prior to taking the wheel and then never to touch the phone during the trip. Picking up the device or programming in information into the device while driving is a crime in Nevada. NRS 484B does not prohibit the use of voice-operated GPS devices affixed to the car.
Using a phone as a music player
If playing music on a cell phone requires the phone to be in the driver's hand at any time, then it is technically illegal. Nevada police have been advised to assume that any driver who is holding or touching a cell phone is violating NRS 484B.
Pulling over to take a call
Pulling over to take a phone call is okay on residential streets. But it is not recommended on main streets or highways because it may put other people in danger and may open the driver to other traffic violations. Drivers who do pull over do not have to turn off the car engine to talk . . . the car just cannot be in motion.
Note that the law limiting cell phone usage while driving in Nevada is very new. Drivers suspected of this offense may not be cited for it until January 1st, 2012 . . . until then police are required to issue only verbal warnings.
The fact that this law is so recent actually works to a defendant's favor. The lack of any legal precedence in Nevada frees the defense attorney to try creative and radical strategies when fighting the charges. The following are just some possible defenses:
- Emergency situation. The ban on texting or holding a phone while driving in Nevada does not apply if the driver is using the phone to request assistance or to report criminal activity or a safety hazard. Likewise, a driver may hold the phone while talking or texting in situations where it would be dangerous or inadvisable to do otherwise. Therefore if a defense attorney can show that the defendant was reacting reasonably to an emergency situation, the charge should be dropped.
- Lack of evidence. A court may not convict a defendant of a crime unless the D.A. proves his/her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So if the defense lawyer can make a convincing argument that police mistakenly believed that the driver violated NRS 484B, then the case may be dismissed.
- Cell phone records. All cell phone carriers keep detailed records of the time of every text message and the duration of every phone call. If the records show that the defendant was not on a phone call or engaging in a texting conversation at the time of the citation, then chances are good that the defendant will be acquitted.
Texting or otherwise handling an electronic device while driving is a misdemeanor in Nevada. Although a misdemeanor in Nevada generally carries up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines, the sentence for illegal cell phone use usually will not include incarceration:
- A first offense within a seven-year period carries a $50 fine. Furthermore, a first offense is not treated as a moving violation.
- A second offense within a seven-year period carries a $100 fine.
- A third or subsequent offense within a seven-year period carries a $250 fine as well as a six-month license suspension. (Read more about how to avoid a license suspension in Nevada.)
Note that penalties may be increased if the alleged violation occurs in a work zone. But the additional penalty may not exceed a total of $1,000, six months in jail or 120 hours of community service.
Cited? Call a lawyer . . . .
If you have been cited for driving while illegally using a phone or other electronic device, contact Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation. They may be able to negotiate a charge reduction or even a full dismissal to safeguard your criminal record and avoid a license suspension in Nevada.