On June 6, 2009, South Carolina's new texting while driving law went into effect. This law creates a new statute, S.C. Code § 56-5-3890, and is listed along with other laws regarding the operation of a motor vehicle. This law makes it illegal for the driver to type, send or read text messages. It doesn't apply when your car is legally parked or stopped. Of course police officers are exempted from compliance (just like they seem to be for speeding and using turn signals).
Anyone in violation of this law can be fined up to $25, which is the same as a seatbelt ticket. There are no points assessed and a ticket will not be reported to your car insurance company. You cannot be taken to jail for this offense (unless you don't pay the fine), and it is not a criminal offense (like DUI or shoplifting), which means that it will also not be reported to the DMV.
Anyone charged with violating the law can fully contest it in court. There are no additional court costs or penalties for having a full trial. This right includes the ability to have a full jury trial, and the jury will be instructed that you are innocent unless the state can prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There is also a right to appeal any conviction to Circuit Court and then onto the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
This information is being provided for general informational purposes only. The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC, will not be offering free consultations to those ticketed only for texting while driving. This is because very few individuals will need legal advice due to limited penalties imposed. We will, however, provide in-person or telephone consultations with an attorney regarding this law and your rights to challenge any ticket issued on a paid consultation basis.