Rejoice, rejoice, people who have ever used a map! For it is now legal to use said map on that little device that is the new repository for all maps, your cell phone, in California. A court decision just made it legal to use Google Maps or whatever, just as long as you're not talking on the phone.
Steven R. Spriggs was the poor sap who was pulled over back in in January 2012, for "using his cell phone," despite only using it to look for an exit while stationary in a traffic jam. I'll let the LA Times explain the original facts of the case:
Something out his left window startled him. It was California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer Jack Graham, motioning to him to pull over.
"He said, 'Pull over, I'm going to write you a ticket for using your cellphone,'" Spriggs told me Tuesday. Graham cited Spriggs for driving a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone. Not talking on a wireless phone. Not texting on wireless phone. But using the phone.
On April 26, 2012, Spriggs fought his ticket at trial in Fresno County Superior Court. He brought in a paper map and opened it to demonstrate that trying to use a traditional map is much more cumbersome than using an iPhone map. He lost.
Spriggs filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Fresno County Superior Court, which he also lost, because the Appellate Division of the Fresno County Superior Court ruled that he had violated the state's law against distracted driving.
That clearly made no sense whatsoever, though, because the ruling essentially said it was a-okay with the state if you wanted to read a map in your car, but IN NO WAY SHALL YOU HAVE THAT MAP ALSO HAVE THE ABILITY TO CONNECT TO THE INTERNET.
Like I said, it didn't make any sense.
Spriggs, our hero, decided to persevere and fight on. And today, he won.
The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fifth Appellate District just issued this awesomely succinct ruling:
Spriggs contends he did not violate the statute because he was not talking on the telephone. We agree.
Alright, so the ruling does continue on a bit from there, but the gist of it is that the judges found that when the law said it wanted to stop people from "using" their cell phones while driving, the original intention of the law was to prohibit people from talking on the phone, not stop them from using it as a navigational aid.
The ruling goes on for another 18 pages, but that's basically all you need to know.
So go ahead, California drivers. Fire up that Google Maps without fear. Just keep your eyes on the road at the same time.