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I remember it well from when we lived in New Jersey. A trip on any major highway whether traffic was stopped or not would most likely reveal some driver, totally not paying attention to driving. I have seen drivers putting on makeup while driving (seems dangerous to me), talking on cell phones, texting on phones, even reading the newspaper (I kid you not, the paper splayed out over the steering wheel as they do 70 on the Garden State Parkway). Most states have required hands-free use of phones while driving to try to make it somewhat safer to be on the road with these people. The state of Utah has recently passed a law making it the strictest law in the country for texting while driving. Drivers who are texting and cause a fatal collision can be face felony charges and jail time up to 15 years. The state has likened texting or talking while driving to driving while intoxicated -reasoning that drivers who are distracted by texting or talking while driving are just as unfit to operate a vehicle as drivers who have had too much to drink. Texting have been found to be even more dangerous since the driver is more distracted and engaged than with just talking on the cell phone.

From a legal perspective, the difficulty in enforcing the law lies in the ability of the prosecutors to prove their case. Unlike drunk driving where there are objective testing in the form of a breathalyzer, there are no such instruments available in texting while driving cases. The prosecutors or law enforcement officials are forced to subpoena phone records and logs to demonstrate that the driver was texting immediately prior to the collision. The law in Utah presumes that all drivers are aware of the inherent risk of texting while operating a motor vehicle, akin to the presumption in most states regarding the consumption of alcohol and the operation of a vehicle. With this presumption in place, the evidence in the form of phone records provide the proof necessary for enforcement.

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I have to vent. Once again, I am disturbed by the way media spins things and people fail to have their own independent thought on the subject. All over the news here has been the headline something to the effect of “Vermont legislature permits sexting among teens”. That information or some version of it was distributed via AP all over the world. The comments from people that I have seen flying by on Twitter (since I have it set to do a search for the word “Vermont”) has truly rendered me flabbergasted. People are outraged, people are annoyed, people obviously just also didn’t take the time to get the whole story – just what the media chose to force feed them and they, without question, believe. Honestly, folks! Maybe it is the lawyer in me, maybe it is just an independent brain – I don’t know. People, this is what we call sensational media. Convinced that this could not be completely accurate, I read the Senate bill itself and the Letter to the Editor written by two Vermont senators who were just as outraged at the spin put on the bill by the media. The bill in its entirety comprises what will be the toughest sex offender law in the country. In addition, the bill is replete with funding for education and information regarding sexual encounters, sexual predators and sexting. The bill on its face eliminates sex offender penalties for children ages 13-18 who sext pictures or receive sexted pictures with consent. I don’t think that there is one single parent out there that would like to see their child labeled a “sex offender” complete with registry and prison time and rendered a convicted felon to boot just for texting or posting a picture of themselves or receiving such a picture from another child. We all wish a better life for our children, not that their life be ripped from them for an indiscretion, which under the law as it stands is considered child pornography and labels that child a felon if convicted. The “crime” does not fit the punishment – a punishment that is strict, is serious and a lifelong label. While I don’t condone the behavior, it is after all, the behavior of individuals that the law does not view as consenting adults. Children under the age of 18 are not permitted those legal rights afforded most adults because they are children – incapable in the eyes of the law of having the knowledge to understand and use their legal rights. What the legislators in Vermont were trying to do was to make sure that the “children” – the incapable individuals who are unable to make decisions for themselves in the eyes of the law – were not labeled with the scarlet C of child pornographer and left to live a life where they are required to register  with sex registries wherever they choose to reside or wherever they may be permitted by law to reside – for the remainder of their lives. At some juncture, parents need to be parents and control their children. The problem perhaps is not with the law, but with the way we are raising our collective children. Dare I say most parents would never think to “invade their child’s privacy” to see what may being transmitted on their phones. Parents who feel the need perhaps to be a friend and not a parent. The problem as stated in the Letter to the Editor I read is really a societal problem, not a legal problem. The legislature in Vermont did not condone the behavior, it saw to carve an exception because the law as it stands does not differentiate. The media sought to put a very different spin on it – and that is a shame.

Evilwife on the move

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