Connecticut law does not specifically define the offense of causing a fatality due to using a cell phone or texting while driving. Depending on the circumstances of a case, a person may be charged with multiple types of criminal offenses:
- Negligent homicide with a motor vehicle – This charge may apply if a person caused the death of someone else because they acted negligently while driving. A conviction can be punished by up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $3,500, or both.
- Misconduct with a motor vehicle – This charge may apply if a person caused someone’s death due to criminal negligence when operating a motor vehicle. Criminal negligence involves the failure to pay attention to substantial risks in a way that deviates from the way a reasonable person would act. This offense is a Class D felony, and a conviction can be punished by one to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
- Manslaughter in the second degree – This charge may apply if a person caused someone’s death by acting recklessly. Reckless actions involve the conscious disregard of the risks of certain behaviors. This offense is a Class C felony, and a conviction can be punished by one to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
If you are facing criminal charges because you are accused of causing a fatal accident due to texting or using a cell phone while driving, you will need the help of an experienced attorney.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car crashes in the United States. It results in thousands of deaths every year, and hundreds of thousands of injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Distracted driving takes many forms. Basically, any activity that takes the driver’s eyes off the road or hands off the wheel, or keeps him from concentrating, is a distraction.
For example, distracted driving might be a driver who takes his hands off the wheel to juggle a sandwich or other meal. It might be a driver who is trying to do her makeup because she is running late for work. It might be a driver who is trying to referee an argument between her kids in the backseat. But commonly, it is a driver who is talking on his phone, responding to a text message or otherwise using a handheld cell phone.
Ban on Handheld Cell Phone Use
Under Connecticut law, “no person shall engage in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle that interferes with its safe operation on a highway.”
Specifically, it is illegal in Connecticut for drivers to text or talk using a handheld cell phone. Hands-free devices are generally allowed unless the driver is under 18 years old. Novice drivers are not allowed to use any electronic devices while behind the wheel. These bans are primary offenses, which means that law enforcement does not need another reason to pull you over (like speeding or running a red light). Using a handheld cell phone or other banned device is reason enough to stop you.
Of course, there are exceptions for emergency situations. An experienced attorney can help you defend against an unwarranted ticket for using a handheld cell phone.
Punishments for Driving Distracted in Connecticut
Someone who violates the handheld device ban faces a $150 penalty. Second-time offenders face a $300 penalty, and third-time or subsequent offenders face a $500 penalty. Offenders also risk accumulating demerit points on their driving record. Drivers with too many points can lose their license.
Distracted driving often leads to other criminal violations with harsher consequences. For example, Connecticut police recently charged a 19-year-old with distracted driving and negligent homicide after a fatal crash in May 2017. (Police said he was not using a cell phone but did not specify the distraction.) Negligent homicide with a motor vehicle is a serious offense in Connecticut. Our attorneys can help with this and any criminal charges associated with your traffic violation.