published Thursday, February 27th, 2014

California court: Drivers can read cellphone maps

FRESNO, Calif. — Drivers in California can legally read a map on their hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, a state appeals court ruled Thursday.

The 5th District Court of Appeal reversed the case of a Fresno man who was ticketed in January 2012 for looking at a map on his iPhone 4 while stuck in traffic. The driver, Steven Spriggs, challenged the $165 fine and won.

Spriggs was caught up by road work and grabbed his cellphone to find an alternate route when a California Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle spotted him and stopped him to write the ticket.

In their 18-page ruling, the appellate judges said California's law prohibiting people from talking on their cellphones without a hands-free device could have been written more clearly, but it doesn't apply to looking at maps on cellphones.

The law a California Highway Patrol officer used to ticket Spriggs applies specifically to people "listening and talking" on cellphones, not using their mobile phone in other ways, the court said.

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