Starting January 1, 2021, a new hands-free law became effective in Virginia, making it illegal to hold a cellphone or another handheld personal communications device while driving.
With the new hands-free law, Virginia has joined the rest of the Washington region in banning handheld personal communications devices while behind the wheel.
A first violation of the hands-free law is punishable by a $125 fine. If you are caught holding a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle a second time or while driving in a work zone, you will pay $250 for the violation.
If you have been cited for using a handheld device while driving or charged with reckless driving in Virginia, do not hesitate to consult with our traffic violations attorneys at Shannon & Associates, P.C., to discuss your options.
What has changed?
House Bill 874, which passed by the Virginia General Assembly, established the state’s first total ban on the use of handheld cellphones and other communications devices while operating a motor vehicle.
The previous version of Virginia’s distracted driving law only prohibited holding a cellphone while driving in a work zone and typing/reading text messages and emails while operating a motor vehicle.
Note: While legislators changed the state’s cellphone law on July 1, 2020, drivers got an “education period” until January 1, 2021, to learn about the new law.
What are the exceptions to Virginia’s handheld device ban?
Virginia Code § 46.2-818.2 lists several exceptions to the state’s total ban on the use of handheld personal communications devices while operating a vehicle:
- You can use a cellphone or any other handheld device while lawfully stopped and parked
- You can use an amateur or citizens band radio
- You can use a handheld device to report an emergency
- You can continue using a handheld device while driving if you are the operator of an emergency vehicle performing your official duties
- You can use a handheld device for official business if you are the operator of a Department of Transportation vehicle
Is it legal to talk on your cellphone while driving in Virginia?
Yes, it is still legal to talk on your cellphone or any other personal communications device as long as you do not hold the device while driving. You can mount your cellphone on your car’s dashboard, use the Bluetooth system in your vehicle, or use an earphone in just one ear to talk on your mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle.
Note: Virginia Code § 46.2-1078 prohibits using earphones in both ears while driving.
What are the penalties for using a handheld device while driving?
A violation of Virginia’s new hands-free law, which makes it illegal to use handheld cellphones and other devices while driving, is punishable by a $125 fine for the first violation.
For a second and any subsequent offense, a fine will increase to $250. The $250 fine also applies to drivers caught using a handheld device while driving in a work zone.
In addition, three demerit points may be added to your driver’s license by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Can the use of a handheld device be charged as reckless driving in Virginia?
Although using a handheld device while driving is usually classified as a traffic infraction, a law enforcement officer could charge you with reckless driving if they feel that you were driving in a manner that endangered “the life, limb, or property of any person,” according to Virginia Code § 46.2-852.
The penalties for reckless driving in Virginia include:
- Up to six DMV points
- A maximum fine of $2,500
- A suspension of the driver’s license for up to six months
- Up to 12 months in jail
If you were charged with reckless driving for using a handheld device while operating a vehicle, contact a Virginia reckless driving attorney immediately. Our knowledgeable and results-driven attorneys at Shannon & Associates, P.C., can help you construct a defense strategy to get the charges dismissed or reduced. Call (757) 228-5529 today for a case evaluation.