Articles Posted in Cell phone law

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Last week we reported on the ongoing criminal trial of Aaron Deveau in Massachusetts. Today, the 18-year-old was found guilty of vehicular homicide, and causing a fatal traffic accident while texting on his cell phone. This landmark case is the first time in the state of Massachusetts that such charges have resulted in a conviction. Found guilty, Deveau was sentenced to 2 1/2 years behind bars, and will serve one additional year in jail.

deveau_accident.jpgOn the day of the accident, the teenager had sent and received 193 text messages. Deveau faced a maximum sentence of four years. He was also sentenced to 40 hours of community service, as well as having to surrender his driver’s license for 15 years.

After the accident, Deveau deleted several text messages from his phone, but investigators were able to ascertain that the teenager was driving and texting at the same time through their forensic research team.

This tragic incident caused the death of 55-year-old Donald Bowley Jr., who left 3 children behind, and catastrophic injuries to the two other occupants in Bowley’s vehicle.

deveau trial.jpgIn convicting Deveau, the State of Massachusetts has made an example of this case for all the citizens of Massachusetts who continue to text while driving, even though it has been a violation of the laws of Massachusetts since the year 2010. Even though Deveau showed remorse and regret when he said in open court that he wished he could “take it all back”, before apologizing the to Bowley family, District Court Judge Stephen Abany realized that this case needed an exemplary sentencing.

When sentencing Deveau, Judge Abany said that deterrence “really seems to come to play in this case,” and “[p]eople really want to be safe on the highways.” People need to “keep their eyes on the road, keep their eyes on the road,” he added.
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Aaron Deveau is currently on trial, facing criminal charges including motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, being an operator under 18 using a mobile phone, being an operator reading or sending an electronic message, driving over marked lanes, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

This Massachusetts criminal case could be the first landmark case in the controversial topic of texting while driving, after the 17 year-old-teenager, Deveau, collided head-on with a pickup truck on Feb. 20, 2011, and killing 55-year-old Donald Bowley.

Had this accident occurred in Florida, Aaron Deveau would be freely walking down the streets of the Sunshine State with the comforting knowledge that he will never face criminal charges. The victim’s family on the other hand would only have a civil remedy against the negligent teenager.

In 2010 the state of Massachusetts has passed a law banning the use of mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle. A contrario, Florida is one of only six states in the country which continuously refuses to ban the practice of texting and driving. In fact, this year marked the 7th year in a row that the Florida legislature could have voted on a total or partial ban of the use of handheld mobile phones while driving and adjourned without producing a single distracted driving law.

Map of USA - Texting and Driving Ban.jpg

Image above courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Ira H. Leesfield, as Senior Managing Partner of Leesfield Scolaro, has continuously been an advocate in favor of a total ban of the use of mobile phones when driving a motor vehicle. Recently, Ira Leesfield highlighted the main concerns and legal theories under which plaintiffs could attempt bringing civil cases against negligent drivers who caused injuries while using their cell phone: Driving + Cell Phones = Bad Call.

In an article published in the Miami Herald, Texting and driving a costly business risk, Ira Leesfield warned the corporate world of the dangers of having employees driving and using their cell phones. In 2007, an article published in the American Bar Association’s The Brief, Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, in which Ira Leesfield analyzes and discusses remedies and tactics for handling motor vehicle collision cases arising from cell phone use and distractions. This article can be downloaded here.
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