As a criminal defense attorney, I help a lot of clients facing driving-related charges. What I’ve learned is that most people are totally unaware of how the traffic ticket system works in Tennessee. But if you’re charged with a moving violation, simply paying the ticket isn’t always your best option.

For example: let’s say a man is driving at 35mph in a 25mph zone and he hits a pothole, thus causing him to skid into a telephone pole. When the police arrive, he could be ticketed for speeding (3 points), reckless driving (6 points), and contributing to an accident involving property damage (3 points). But if that 25mph zone is also a school zone and it’s during school hours, that reckless driving charge could be upped to reckless endangerment (8 points), and he could face child endangerment charges (8 points).

This example is, of course, a worst-case scenario. But it’s crucial that people understand that speeding charge might not only be a speeding charge, and that your license is on the line every time you fail to obey a traffic law.

Distracted driving penalties

The Tennessee Code 55-8-199 deals with the use of mobile phones and devices. It states:

No person while driving a motor vehicle on any public road or highway shall use a hand-held mobile telephone or a hand-held personal digital assistant to transmit or read a written message; provided, that a driver does not transmit or read a written message for the purpose of this subsection (b) if the driver reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in a hand-held mobile telephone or a personal digital assistant for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call.

As of right now, distracted driving (like texting or talking on your cell phone) is considered a Class C misdemeanor, and the penalty is a $50.00 fine. There are currently no points associated with it the ticket, but Tennessee legislators are pushing for increased fines and penalties for first-time and repeat offenders, so it’s possible that points may be added sooner than we think.

It’s important that you review any traffic citations you receive carefully. Once you hit 12 points on your license, you face having it revoked – so all of the small tickets you paid and forgot about could add up quickly. Stop by my office to discuss any traffic tickets you have; together, we’ll come up with a plan that will help keep your record clean, and keep you on the road.

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