Las Vegas Sun

November 30, 2015

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Contrary to tweet, cellphone law goes into effect Oct. 1

SB 140 (Cell Phones and Driving)

Talking on a cellphone and texting while driving is, for the next few months, still legal in Nevada, even if it’s not advised.

A perception has spread — kindled by police and confirmed by an informal poll of typically well-informed colleagues and friends — that the ban, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval last month, took effect Friday.

Not so. The law doesn’t take effect until Oct. 1. Only then will police be able to pull over motorists and issue verbal warnings. Starting Jan. 1, police can issue tickets for talking without an earpiece or texting while driving.

If this is news to you, you’re not alone.

Metro Police tweeted last week that they would begin pulling over gabbing motorists Friday, the first day of the month.

That prompted a news release from the Nevada Public Safety Department, which oversees the Nevada Highway Patrol, that the law doesn’t go into effect until Oct. 1. Sandoval also tweeted the reminder.

Part of the confusion might have arisen from the fact there is no timetable in the bill about when it takes effect. Carson City veterans know that unless otherwise stated in legislation, new laws by default take effect Oct. 1.

Metro Officer Jay Rivera acknowledged an erroneous tweet was sent out, stating that the law was to take effect Friday. He said it was corrected within a couple of minutes.

He said officers on the street were never given the July 1 date, and no drivers were mistakenly stopped and given warnings.

He did note that Nevada has had “distracted driving” infractions on its books for years. That would include applying makeup, eating, tuning your radio or, of course, talking on your cellphone.

So what to do if Johnny Law erroneously pulls you over for talking on your cellphone?

Allen Lichtenstein, an American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada attorney, said: First, be polite; inform the officer that the law goes into effect Oct. 1; if the officer persists, politely get the name of the officer and badge number, and report to the department that officers are working with some bad information.

Do not — he repeats do not — think you can ignore the flashing lights.

“Nobody needs a confrontation on this,” he said. “It doesn’t help police. It certainly doesn’t help the citizen.”

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