Person driving while looking at phone

Ohio law provides for two related types of offenses involving driving, texting and use of electronic communication devices. The first offense is driving while texting. This offense applies to both adults and juveniles. The second offense is the use of electronic communication devices by persons under 18 years of age. As the name suggests, this offense applies only to juveniles.

Perhaps surprisingly, under Ohio law, no BMV points are assessed for a conviction for either of these offenses. Nevertheless, these offenses do carry the potential for other notable penalties. The elements of these offenses and the related penalties are discussed below.

Driving while texting

Driving while texting is prohibited by Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.204(A). Under this code section, no person may drive a motor vehicle on any street, highway or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication. This prohibition against such use of a handheld electronic wireless communications device has a number of exceptions, including the following:

  • Use of a handheld electronic wireless communications device for emergency purposes, including an emergency contact with a law enforcement agency, hospital or health care provider, fire department, or other similar emergency agency or entity
  • Use of handheld electronic wireless communications by a person driving a public safety vehicle in the course of the person’s duties
  • Use of a handheld electronic wireless communications device in a motor vehicle in a stationary position outside a lane of travel
  • Use of a handheld electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call, including reading, selecting, or entering a name or telephone number
  • Receiving wireless messages on a device regarding the operation or navigation of a motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic or weather alerts; or data used primarily by the motor vehicle
  • Receiving wireless messages via radio waves
  • Using a device for navigation purposes
  • Conducting wireless interpersonal communication with a device that does not require manually entering letters, numbers, or symbols or reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate the device or a feature or function of the device
  • Operating a commercial truck while using a mobile data terminal that transmits and receives data
  • Using a handheld electronic wireless communications device in conjunction with a voice-operated or hands-free device feature or function of the vehicle

Driving while texting cannot be the sole basis for a traffic stop

Notably, under Section 4511.204(C)(1), law enforcement officers are prohibited from the following:

  • Stopping an automobile operated on any street or highway for the sole purpose of determining whether a driving while texting violation has been or is being committed
  • Stopping an automobile for the sole purpose of issuing a ticket, citation or summons for a violation of that nature
  • Causing the arrest of or commencing a prosecution of a person for a violation of that nature
  • Viewing the interior or visually inspecting any automobile being operated on any street or highway for the sole purpose of determining whether a violation of that nature has been or is being committed

Use of wireless electronic communication devices by persons under 18 years of age

A similar prohibition against the use of wireless electronic communication devices while driving applies to minors. Under Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.205(A), no holder of a temporary instruction permit who has not attained the age of 18 years, and no holder of a probationary driver’s license, may drive a motor vehicle on any street, highway, or property used by the public for purposes of vehicular traffic or parking while using in any manner an electronic wireless communications device.

This prohibition against such use of a device is subject to a number of exceptions as well, including the following:

  • Using an electronic wireless communications device for emergency purposes, including an emergency contact with a law enforcement agency, hospital or health care provider, fire department, or other similar emergency agency or entity
  • Using an electronic wireless communications device whose motor vehicle is in a stationary position and the motor vehicle is outside a lane of travel
  • Using a navigation device in a voice-operated or hands-free manner who does not manipulate the device while driving

Penalty For Driving While Texting

Pursuant to Section 4511.204(D), driving while texting is classified as a minor misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a minor misdemeanor traffic offense includes the imposition of a fine of up to $150, up to 30 hours of community service and court costs. Additionally, pursuant to Section 4511.204(E), a municipality may enact an ordinance prohibiting driving while texting with a violation of the same resulting in greater penalties than are described here.

Penalty for use of wireless devices by persons under age 18

Use of devices by persons under 18 years of age carries a fine of up to $150. In addition, the court is required to impose a class 7 suspension of the offender’s driver’s license or permit for a definite period of 60 days.

If the person previously has been adjudicated a delinquent child or a juvenile traffic offender for a violation of this section, then whoever violates this section shall be fined $250. In addition, the court is required to impose a class 7 suspension of the person’s driver’s license or permit for a definite period of one year.

Points for driving while texting and use of communication devices by persons under age 18

A conviction on a traffic ticket for driving while texting carries zero points in Ohio on an offender’s driving record. Likewise, an adjudication on a traffic ticket use of wireless electronic communication devices by persons under 18 years of age carries zero points in Ohio on an offender’s driving record.

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