Hands-Free Ordinance Explainer

Ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, it will be illegal to drive while using any hand held mobile device to talk or text in San Antonio.

Here is a detailed explanation of the hands-free ordinance passed by the San Antonio City Council:


(a) In this section:

(1) ENGAGING IN A CALL means talking to, dialing, or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone, but does not include holding a mobile telephone to activate or deactivate the device.

(2) HAND-HELD MOBILE COMMUNICATION DEVICE means a text-messaging device or   other electronic, two-way communication device that uses a commercial mobile service, as defined by 47 U.S.C.§ 332, that is designed to receive and transmit voice communication, text message or pictorial communication, or both whether by internet or other electronic means.  The term includes a mobile telephone, and a personal digital assistant (PDA).

(3) HANDS-FREE MOBILE TELEPHONE means a mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of the mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand (or prosthetic device or aid in the case of a physically disabled person) whether or not the use of either hand (or prosthetic device) is necessary to activate or deactivate the mobile telephone.

(4) PARK OR PARKED shall mean for the operator to completely cease movement of a motor vehicle in a lawful manner and location.  For purposes of this Section, "Parked" does not include or mean a vehicle stopped in a lane of traffic due to either a lawful traffic control device, or the conditions on the roadway, or traffic congestion patterns then existing.  

(5) TEXT MESSAGE means a two-way communication (whether real-time or asynchronous) in which data (composed in whole or in part of text, numbers, images, or symbols) is sent, entered, or received by a method other than by voice and transmitted through either a short message service (SMS) or a computer network.  The term does not include a communication transmitted through a global positioning or navigation system.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person uses a hand-held mobile communication device to 1) engage in a call, 2) send, 3) read or write a text message, 4) view pictures or written text whether transmitted by internet or other electronic means, 5) engage in gaming, or 6) engage in any other use of the device while operating a moving motor vehicle.

(c) This section does not apply to an operator of a motor vehicle using a hand-held mobile communications device:

(1) while the vehicle is legally parked or is being driven on private property;

(2) that is affixed to the vehicle and used as a global positioning or navigation system;

(3) that is used with a hands-free mobile communication telephone or other such device;

(4) by a person who is an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle while acting in an official capacity;

(5) by a person who is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission while operating a radio frequency device other than a wireless communication device.

(d) It shall be an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person was using a hand-held mobile communication device for the purpose of:

(1) executing the person's official duties;

(2) reporting illegal activity to a law enforcement agency;

(3) communicating with an emergency response operator, a fire department, a law enforcement agency, a hospital, a physician's office, or a health clinic regarding a medical or other emergency situation; or

(4) preventing injury to a person or property.

(e) Only warning citations may be issued for the first 30 days following the effective date of this ordinance so that an educational effort by the City of San Antonio may be conducted to inform the public about the importance and requirements of this new Ordinance. Thereafter, a person convicted of an offense under this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200.  

(f) An offense under this section is not a moving violation and may not be made a part of a person's driving record or insurance record.

(g) In addition to enforcement by a peace officer of the city of San Antonio, this section may be enforced by a peace officer of another entity, including those employed by school districts, duly authorized to issue traffic citations within the City of San Antonio.