Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

When Is Texting Illegal?

Come on guy. What kind of phone is that? Photo: Getty Images.

Texting is a modern addiction, and for some people it’s led to major issues–of the legal variety. Here’s when to put down the touch screen if you don’t want to find yourself typing “FML.”

Sure, high school students can get detention for texting in class, but when can texting get you into real, adult trouble?

In a recent case, an Oregon juror spent two days in jail after using his cell phone in court. The judge wasn’t too impressed.

The man, 26-year-old Benjamin Kohler, and the other jurors were given “explicit instructions at the outset of each trial not to use cellphones in court,” according to The Associated Press.

Marion County Circuit Judge Dennis Graves noticed that Kohler was using his device when the lights were dimmed for a video. After clearing the courtroom, the judge ordered Kohler to stay. He reportedly had no explanation for his actions.

Seemingly, it would appear that most of us are smart enough not to use our phones during court or while operating a motor vehicle, but research and statistics prove otherwise. And some people learn the hard way when figuring out when they are allowed to use their mobile device in certain situations.

Sometimes, that lesson involves death or injury.

The issue of texting while driving has seen increased awareness over the past few years.

Aah, bliss. A massage and an exciting game of Snake. Photo: Getty Images.

According to, the official US Government Website for Distracted Driving, there were 3,331 people killed in 2011 due to distracted driving, which typically involves texting. The website notes that “sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds,” which turns out to be an entire length of a football field if one is going 55 miles per hour.

Thus, for a majority of Americans, it’s now illegal (or soon to be illegal) to text and drive in close to 30 states, in addition to the District of Columbia.

Over the next few years, certain establishments and businesses will have to be blatantly clear when banning texting and the use of phones in general as new types handheld devices continue to emerge.

But it’s not just the courtroom and the open road that are no-texting zones. In certain areas, it’s technically a crime to text while outside. In May 2012, a law was passed in a New Jersey city that made it illegal to text and walk. According to ABC News, Thomas Ripoli, chief of the Fort Lee, New Jersey Police Department, found the issue to be of high importance.

“It’s a big distraction. Pedestrians aren’t watching where they are going and they are not aware,” he said. Those found guilty are given an $85 ticket for jaywalking.

Las Vegas assemblyman Harvey Mumford recently proposed a law that it would make it illegal to text and walk on roads in the state of Nevada. In an interview with the L.A. Times, he said that he “was just amazed by what I saw. So many people are almost oblivious. They are texting and texting, totally unaware as they cross even six-lane highways.”

A main source of concern is rooted in the younger generation.

“When kids get out of school, where they’ve been banned from using their cell phones all day, they go immediately to their texts. I’ve seen several close calls myself where people have almost been hit. Kids are so addicted to those things. It’s almost become a plague,” said Mumford.

The laws regarding texting will evolve over the next few years and it will be interesting to see how things develop.

Be smart and don’t text and drive. Oh, and–though you might not get a ticket or jail time–don’t text during sex; that’s just rude.

Jeffrey Hartinger is a writer who lives in New York City. You can visit his website at

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