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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Using a smartphone map in California is against the law and will cost you

One major case going through the California court system is one most of us should take heed of: it involves a driver charged with using a map on his smartphone while driving.

Law enforcement spotted that infraction and gave him a $160 ticket plus ordered him to cover court costs for "distracted driving."

The driver argued that he was looking at a map during a traffic jam. He is not an attorney but did graduate from a law school. He argued that his smartphone map app amounts to a digital version of a paper map in his car, and that he should be free to use the phone.

He was found guilty. The driver has told media he supports restrictions on texting or talking while driving.

A California appeals court judge wrote, in the opinion against the driver, Steven Sprigss, that the state law may have to change.

"It may be argued that the Legislature acted arbitrarily when it outlawed all `hands-on' use of a wireless telephone while driving, even though the legal use of one's hands to operate myriad other devices poses just as great a risk to the safety of other motorists," the judge wrote in the March 21 ruling.

"It may also be argued that prohibiting driving while using `electronic wireless communications devices' for texting and emailing, while acknowledging and failing to prohibit perhaps even more distracting uses of the same devices, is equally illogical and arbitrary."

The judge said, however, it's the job of the state Legislature to fix that problem through lawmaking. For now, California courts are compelled to see using all hand-held devices inside cars as illegal.  Which nicely distinguishes holding such devices, as opposed to using a hands-free option.

The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.