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How serious are penalties for texting while driving?

Setting aside any potential risks to your well-being that may exist, the consequences of texting and driving in Montana depend largely on the context of the event: specifically, the location. The jurisdiction in which you are alleged to be texting and driving must have a law in place prohibiting such action, and the penalties associated with violations depend on the relevant municipal code. You are unlikely to receive a ticket for texting while driving on state highways due to the fact that, at the time of writing, there is no statewide law against operating vehicles while using communications devices.

The lack of continuity between various municipal distracted driving laws further serves to complicate the matter of determining the severity of your offense. However, the penalties for each jurisdiction are usually straightforward. For example, the Billings Code of Ordinances outlines the following penalties for driving while using communications technology:

  • Court costs if an unfavorable judgment is entered against you
  • A fine of up to $300 for your first offense
  • Fines of up to $500 for your subsequent violations

You might want to note that there is a possibility to obtain a conditional suspension of fees for any Billings ordinance violation that falls into this category.

Another relevant point is that you do not have to use the electronic device in question to violate the law. Billings' codes, like many similar ordinances, prohibit immediate possession of nearly any type of handheld electronic communication device while you operate almost any manner of vehicle. Theoretically, you could violate this law in situations ranging from the mundane, such as driving while handling a mobile phone, to the absurd, such as operating a short-wave radio while riding a bicycle: The penalties for all these situations are potentially equal. While reviewing this information, please keep in mind that its purpose is to inform you about contemporary issues rather than serve as legal advice.

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