The Details of Iowa’s Texting Ban

Effective July 1, 2010, Iowa's "texting ban" will be in full force and effect. There are some things that Iowan's and people traveling through Iowa should be aware of regarding Iowa's texting ban.

First, this new offense is not categorized as a moving violation.

Second, law enforcement may only issue warnings for the first year.

Third, what precisely is prohibited varies depending on whether the driver is over or under the age of 18.

Under 18 Years Old: Prohibited from using ANY electronic communication device (cell phone) or electronic entertainment device (i-pod) while driving a motor vehicle. This means no talking on the phone, texting, or using an auxiliary plugged in i-pod or similar device. The requirement that officers have probable cause to stop the vehicle for a primary traffic offense does not apply to minors. However, the officer must still have probable cause to believe the driver is under the age of 18 which is often times difficult to determine.

Over 18 Years Old: Only prohibited from writing, sending or reading a text message while driving. Does not prohibit talking on the phone, looking up phone numbers, or reading safety-related information including emergency, traffic or weather alerts. It could also be argued that the new law does not prohibit reading or retrieving websites or other information via mobile internet connections. Drivers are also specifically permitted to use GPS systems while driving. A police officer may not stop or detain a person solely for a suspected violation of this law. They must first have probable cause to stop the individual for another suspected traffic offense.

Finally, everyone should understand that if an officer asks if you were texting or asks to view your hand held device, you have the constitutional right not to incriminate yourself and you also have a constitutionally protected right to privacy in your personal property. If you voluntarily answer questions or allow law enforcement to view your device, what you say and what they find is admissible. However, if you remain silent and do not consent to law enforcement looking at your phone or other device, how do they obtain the proof necessary to prove that you were violating the law?

Texting and driving is never a good idea but it is important to remember that you still have rights if you are being investigated for violating the law, regardless of how minor the infraction may be.