Beginning January 1, 2009, drivers in California will generally be prohibited from writing, sending or reading text-based electronic wireless communications (including text messages, instant messages or electronic mail). The new law supplements the recently enacted "hands free" cellular phone statute, and does not prohibit the reading or entering of a telephone number or name for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call. [See http://www.fenwick.com/publications/6.5.4.asp?mid=35]
Violations of this law will be punishable by a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. The assessments of penalties can triple the base fine amount.