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Understanding Minnesota’s wireless communication law

People in Grand Forks use a variety of handheld devices to look at websites, send messages and even make phone calls. However, The Office of the Revisor of Statutes states that using devices for electronic messages is illegal while behind the wheel of a car. While the statute does not indicate what the penalty is for a first violation, those who are cited for an additional violation will have to pay fines, including one in the amount of $225. 

People are allowed to use a wireless device under certain conditions. For example, if they put the device in a hands-free mode or set it to voice, they cannot be cited. The same is true if they are making an emergency action or a simple phone call. The statute does not define what would qualify as an emergency action. What is prohibited, is using a device for accessing or sending email, texting or visiting websites.

The Office of Traffic Safety for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety further points out that school bus drivers and motorists below the age of 18 are banned from using cellphones behind the wheel. However, the law does allow these drivers to make a call to 911 in the event of an emergency, such as witnessing a crime or reporting an accident. 

For people who are texting or using a device illegally, and cause a fatal accident, they could find themselves facing more serious charges, such as involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, people in this situation could be sentenced to serve time in a prison cell. Taking care to avoid text messaging and other wireless distractions could prevent costly involvement with the criminal law system.

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