Introduced Version House Bill 2621 History

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H. B. 2621

(By Delegates Guthrie, Hatfield, Shook,
Miley, Webster and Martin)
[Introduced February 18, 2009; referred to the
Committee on Roads and Transportation then the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, relating to establishing the offense of unlawful use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway; providing exceptions and conditions for certain lawful uses; definitions; misdemeanor criminal penalties; and, limitation of enforcement.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, to read as follows:
§17C-14-15. Unlawful use of wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle; exceptions; penalty.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a driver may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway.
(b) The provisions of this section do not apply to a driver who uses a wireless communication device when:
(1) The driver immediately fears for his, her, or another person's life or safety, or the driver believes that he, she, or another person is, or is about to become, the victim of a criminal act;
(2) The driver uses the wireless communication device to contact law-enforcement authorities, emergency personnel, to report a criminal activity, a fire, a traffic accident, a serious road hazard, a medical emergency, a hazardous materials emergency or any other condition which threatens bodily injury, public health, welfare or safety;
(3) The wireless communication device is a hands-free wireless communication device, as defined in subsection (c)(1);
(4) The motor vehicle is lawfully parked or safely stopped on the berm or shoulder of a street or highway;
(5) The driver is operating an authorized emergency vehicle as a law-enforcement officer or an emergency services provider employed by, or as an agent of, the United States, this state, or any county, city, town, district or political subdivision;
(6) The motor vehicle is registered to the United States, this state, or any county, city, town, district or political subdivision thereof; or,
(7) The vehicle is stopped as a result of an obstruction or impediment in the road ahead.
(c) As used in this section:
(1) "Hands-free wireless communication device" means a wireless communication device equipped with an internal feature or function, or an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of the device, by which a user engages in a conversation, sends or receives a message, interchanges information, or otherwise communicates without the use of either hand:
Provided, That this definition does not preclude the use of either hand to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of the device;
(2) "Use a wireless communication device" means to verbally or visually converse, message, or otherwise interchange information with another person, including utilization of the internet on a wireless communication device, whether by audio or video communication, telephone, text messaging, or any other form of electronic communication; and,
(3) "Wireless communication device" means a cellular, analog, wireless or digital device, computer or telephone, capable of accessing, sending or receiving wireless electronic messages, conversation or other interchange of information, including, but not limited to, a wireless telephone service, a wireless internet service or a wireless text messaging service, but does not include voice radios, mobile radios, land mobile radios, commercial mobile radios or two-way radios with the capability to transmit and receive voice transmissions utilizing a "push to talk" or "press to transmit" function, or other voice radios used by a law-enforcement officer, an emergency services provider, an employee or agent of public safety organizations, first responders, school bus operators, taxi cab drivers or mobile commercial enterprises.
(d) Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $25. No court costs or other fees shall be assessed for a violation of this section.
(e) Enforcement of this section shall be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver has been detained for probable cause of violating another section of this code or a municipal ordinance.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, no points may be entered on any driver's record maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles as a result of a violation of this section.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to establishing the offense of unlawful use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway. It provides exceptions and conditions for certain lawful uses and definitions. It makes a violation a misdemeanor criminal offense with fine; and provides a limitation of enforcement.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.
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