Signs go up reminding drivers about new hands-free driving law

You do not have to hand over your phone if you're pulled over when new law goes into effect

ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Transportation is putting up signs along Georgia’s borders with its neighbors informing drivers of the state’s new Hands Free law which will go into effect July first.

Channel 2's Richard Elliot spoke with  GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale about the new signs.

"We have about 30-signs going up that say, basically, in Georgia, it's prohibited to hold your phone while driving," said GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale. "We've got four signs strategically going in around the airport, because we get a lot of questions about how do people from out of state know about the law?"
Dale said the signs are placed at all of the exits from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport so visitors who have rented cars can see them.  She also said drivers will begin seeing the messages on GDOT's electronic signs around Metro Atlanta.

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“We’ll be doing a lot of messaging on our over electronic changeable message signs,” Dale said.

If, after July First, a law enforcement officer pulls you over for holding your phone and then asks you to hand over your phone so they can check it for proof, WSB Legal Analyst Esther Panitch said, according to the U.S. Constitution, you don’t have to give your consent for officers to search it, not unless they have a warrant.

“My response would be, as respectfully as I could possibly muster, ‘I decline to turn over my phone to you,’” Panitch said. “I do not consent to you searching my phone.”

However, Panitch added that should that officer still insist on taking your phone, go ahead and respectfully hand it over but then fight it in court.

“Getting into a roadside argument with a officer is never the way to go,” Panitch said.  “You may think the officer is wrong.  The officer may not know (the law), but nonetheless, they’re the one with the badge and the gun, and you be as calm and respectful as possible and handle it in court.”