Sent a Text, Sent to Prison?
This article is a guest post by criminal defense attorney Elliot Savitz.
Texting is one of the most popular ways to keep in touch in the digital age. Advancements in keyboard layouts and pricing structures have made it simple and cheap. Additionally, short messages fit the bustle of the modern world much better than calling someone up for a conversation. While most would consider texting to be a great innovation, it is not without its risks.
One of the biggest problems with texting is the level of distraction that comes with it. Reading and typing phone messages takes concentration, and focusing on a phone can put the rest of the world out of perspective. This is annoying when it causes someone to bump into you when walking down the street, but it becomes dangerous when the distracted person is behind the wheel of a car.
Texting and driving is becoming a serious problem in America, and many states are looking for ways to cut down on the number of people putting themselves and others in danger with their phones. Many judges are taking the opportunity to make examples of those who are charged with this crime. One judge had an opportunity to do just that recently in Massachusetts.
The Aaron Deveau Case
It is not for no reason that people see texting as dangerous. One teenager found that out in June of last year. When the young man, Aaron Deveau, was texting while driving down a street in Haverhill, Mass he struck another car and killed one of the occupants. For many people, the case demonstrated that texting and driving was a danger that needed to be addressed immediately and harshly.
The case attracted a storm of media attention. There are many unfortunate cases of negligence every year, but this one was different. If that was not apparent when prosecutors spent most of the case linking the texting to the accident, it was by the time the judge declared sentencing. Deveau was given the maximum sentence for his charges. The judge stated that it was his intention to deliver a message to Massachusetts drivers. The decision was praised by many driving safety experts.
Deveau’s Massachusetts defense lawyers were much less enthusiastic about the fact that their client was being portrayed by the media as a stand-in for the trouble caused by texting. They also claimed that the prosecution was making an invalid link between the text that was sent and the crash. Deveau claimed that he was simply exhausted and distracted, and that he wasn’t even texting when the crash happened.
When all was said and done, Deveau was sentenced to more than 5 years. One of the charges he was convicted on was texting while driving and causing an injury. That charge alone resulted in a sentence of more than two years. However, a large part of the total sentence was suspended so that the young man only ended up facing one year in prison.
The Deveau case should concern anyone who has ever texted while driving in a moment of carelessness—not just in Massachusetts but in the rest of the United States, as well. Massachusetts is far from the only state that is looking for an excuse to make an example of drivers who caught texting.
Rising Penalties for Texting around the United States
Even before this case became famous, many states had declared that they were going to crack down on driving and texting. Even in only the late part of 2012, several states had already declared their plans.
Arkansas announced that they were planning a new crackdown that would make the fine for texting as much as $500 dollars. A conviction in that state could also result on a one year license suspension. These new laws came after it was revealed that Arkansas had issued three times as many tickets for texting and driving in 2012 as they had issued in 2011.
Arkansas isn’t alone. Delaware received a federal grant that it will by using exclusively for strengthening enforcement of distracted driving law. The state has already begun training law enforcement officers to be more alert when it comes to watching the roads for distracted drivers. Delaware was never a slouch when it came to catching distracted drivers in the first place. The state issued more than 10,000 tickets for cell phone use in 2012. For now, the penalties in Delaware are far less severe than the ones in Arkansas, but that may change very soon.
Several states away, Virginia was considering some of the most serious measures in the U.S. A bill has been presented in Virginia that would make texting qualify as reckless driving. That means that it would not be a ticketed offense, but instead a misdemeanor. Under Virginia law, this type of misdemeanor can be punished with a one-year prison term, or a fine of up to $2500.
These three states are joined by many others. Across the United States, there is very little resistance to even the most severe plans to reduce texting and driving. While everyone wants to feel safer, some people also wonder if some of these programs have gone too far. The most vocal complaints may come from people who are sentenced to prison time because they sent a text.
Would the Law Make You an Example of You?
The law is designed to help people. However, there are times when panic replaces patience when it comes to choosing public policy and creating laws. While texting and driving is dangerous, many people are going to be victimized by overly strict laws before more reasonable legislation is passed. For that reason, you should take any texting and driving charge very seriously.
When you have been charged with texting and driving in Massachusetts, you need to speak to a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer immediately. It’s possible that you may be given the maximum sentence allowed under the law if you are convicted. Protecting you from a conviction will require expert knowledge of criminal law, and enough time to build a compelling case.
Massachusetts criminal defense attorney Elliot Savitz has represented 1000s of clients in the area of criminal law. If you or a loved one have been charged, call the Law Offices of Elliot Savitz and receive a no cost to you consult.