Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, has an article entitled “Young Drivers Hit with Cell Ban: Even lawmakers taken by surprise”.
The bill was HB 1394-2015 authored by Rep. Soliday and sponsored by Sen. Crider. At issue is a provision that prevents drivers under 21 from using a cell phone at all — even for GPS, texting, or music. The digest (written by LSA as a tool for lawmakers, but not actually part of the legislation) reads:
Supervision of probationary drivers. Amends existing supervised driving requirements to receive a learner’s permit or an operator’s license. Provides that an individual with a disability who satisfies certain requirements is eligible to receive an operator’s license. Repeals a superseded provision concerning probationary operator’s licenses. Provides that an operator’s license issued to an individual who is less than 21 years of age is a probationary license. (Under current law, the age limit for a probationary license is 18 years of age.) Requires the bureau of motor vehicles to adopt rules to establish minimum hours of instruction for approved driver education courses.
The story reports that some lawmakers were caught flat-footed, unaware of the expansion. The probationary license is the mechanism creating the expansive prohibition of cell phones. From the text of the legislation, it appears that was already in place for individuals under 18.
On page 6 of the legislation, it says, “(4) The individual may not operate a motor vehicle while using a telecommunications device until the individual becomes
eighteen (18) twenty-one (21) years of age unless the telecommunications device is being used to make a 911 emergency call.”
The language is pretty clear if you’re reading it. But I can see where this is something you’d gloss right over when scanning. The definition of “telecommunications device” is not changed by this legislation but is defined in IC 9-13-2-177.3 as meaning “an electronic or digital telecommunications device. The term includes a: (1) wireless telephone; (2) personal digital assistant; (3) pager; or (4) text messaging device.”
I suppose one could very legitimately take issue with the interpretation that this prohibits using your iPhone in its capacity as a music player or in its capacity as a GPS system. Yes, it’s a “telecommunications device” but it’s also many other things. Are you “using a telecommunications device” when you check the time on a machine with both clock and telecommunications functions? I’m skeptical.
Another potentially interesting angle: does this open the State up to a class action for taking without due process and without compensation by those people between 18 and 21 who had a full operator’s license prior to July 1, 2015, but now have a license of diminished value? I have not done any research on this — so take it with a huge grain of salt, but the theory would go that an individual has a property interest in a license issued by the State and the State can not just arbitrarily take that away from you or limit the scope of your license. For example, see some language in the 1971 case of Bell v. Burson:
Once licenses are issued, as in petitioner’s case, their continued possession may become essential in the pursuit of a livelihood. Suspension of issued licenses thus involves state action that adjudicates important interests of the licensees. In such cases the licenses are not to be taken away without that procedural due process required by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Seems like a case where a grandfather clause would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.