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    Prison if caught texting while driving & causing a fatality

    Date: 09.08.09 | by Natalie Jacobs.

    As of May, 2009, the State of Utah has the nation’s toughest law against texting while driving [TWD].  The law states that a death caused by a texting driver is no longer an accident, but an inherently reckless act.  Offenders face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If caught texting while driving without injury or death, the penalty is three months in jail and a $750 fine.


    Photo by inhisgrace (Flickr)

    The offense is considered the same as drunk driving – that TWD is as risky as driving with a .08 blood alcohol level. Some states have laws banning the practice but the penalties are minimal. California, for example, prohibits TWD with a fine of $20.

    Depending on the consequences of TWD, law enforcement may prosecute the driver for a variety of offenses. In April, 2009 a California driver was sentenced to six years in prison for gross vehicular manslaughter when she slammed into a line of cars and killed another driver. She was speeding and texting at the time.

    The Utah law came about as the result of a tragic accident in 2006. Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old college student, crossed the yellow line, clipped an oncoming car that spun around and was hit by a truck. Two scientists, ages 38 and 50, were killed instantly.  Phone records showed that Shaw was texting up to the moment of the crash. He and his girlfriend had sent 11 texts in the 30 minutes leading up to the accident.

    Mr. Shaw pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 200 community service hours.  He was also ordered by the court to read “Les Miserables” to learn how to contribute to society – like the book’s character Jean Valjean.

    For more about TWD and federal efforts to stop the practice, see:  http://askthejudge.info/congress-considers-ban-on-texting-while-driving/2751/

    Natalie Jacobs

    This post was written by Natalie Jacobs. Prior to joining the AsktheJudge.info team, Natalie worked as a criminal attorney for over five years. She also has worked with Innocence Projects as well as Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona, a character development program for girls in 3rd through 8th grade. When she's not reading and writing about youth justice issues, she thinks about becoming a farmer, chef, world traveler, Bikram master, dogwalker and 80’s film reviewer.

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