Cellphone Use In Arkansas School Zones Could Become A More Serious Offense

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Using your cellphone in an Arkansas school zone with children present is already against the law unless it’s an emergency. Now one lawmaker wants to make it a more serious offense.

House Bill 1182 would allow police officers to stop or detain a driver just to make sure they were using a cellphone in a school zone for an emergency. State Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, said that a school crossing guard inspired her to file this bill.

“I really am concerned and I’ve had so many people contact me and say that they see it every day with people talking on their phone in a school zone with children milling in and out and being distracted … it’s just a safety measure,” she said.

One Little Rock attorney said that although the bill has good intentions, it wouldn’t play well in court.

“You get into a point of how far into the investigation do they get to go,” attorney Degen Clow said. “You kind of start rubbing up against some Fourth Amendment issues. It becomes it slippery slope into how far do we get to go into this phone to look and see if they are complying with this statute.”

As a former prosecuting attorney, Clow added that he expects drivers to challenge this in court if it becomes law.

“In general, making it a primary offense is just not a good thing … it’s too much discretion,” he said. “There’s too many issues that come out of it. It could be cleared up a little bit with more language.”

Fite said she’s open to adding language to this bill to make sure it’s legally appropriate while also considering the safety of children.

Fite has also filed a bill that would double the fines for running a school bus stop sign or passing when lights are flashing.

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