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Will Florida’s Ban On Handheld Devices While Driving Lead to More Racial Profiling?


A number of new bans will become effective here in Florida as of October 1. This includes a ban on texting while driving, as well as drivers are using wireless devices at all while driving in school zones, school crossings and work zones. This means that, legally, drivers can only speak on hands-free devices and cannot hold any other kind of device or they will be pulled over (although they can use their phones to call the police as a narrow exception).

This has a number of representatives concerned about additional racial profiling and minority motorists. Specifically, some civil rights advocates are concerned that the way that the laws have been implemented as problematic and could lead to additional concerns of abuse by police officers.

History of Racial Profiling by Police

Studies have found that, in some areas, a majority of the police are considerably more likely to stop certain types of drivers, such as black and Latino versus white, including Florida. And what starts as a traffic stop can carry the risk of escalating to arrest or use of lethal force. In Florida, one report documented racial disparities in seat belt law enforcement in particular. In 2014, for example, law enforcement officers in the state of Florida stopped and ticketed black motorists for violations at almost double the rate of white motorists. In addition, there are a number of agencies whose enforcement of these requirements has reportedly resulted in racial disparities that exceed statewide disparities; specifically:

  • In Escambia County in 2011, black motorists were stopped and cited four times as often as white motorists;
  • In Palm Beach and Orange Counties in 2014, black motorists were stopped and cited almost three times more often;
  • In Broward County in 2014, black motorists were stopped almost twice as often as white motorists.

Other Bans Going Into Effect As Of October 1

In addition to the handheld device law, a number of other state laws will also go into effect in October, including laws that make it a:

  • third-degree felony if hazing results in permanent injury and provides immunity for those who contact authorities for medical assistance during hazing incidents;
  • second-degree felony to cause great bodily harm or kill police, fire or search and rescue dogs or police horses; and
  • first-degree misdemeanor to show sell or give away childlike sex dolls and makes subsequent violations a third-degree felony.

Contact Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys to Find Out More

If you have been charged with a crime here in Florida, contact our experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can provide you with the very best in legal representation.



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