Texting and driving a crime?

In State v. Belleville, the defendant was driving his SUV on Route 28 in Pittsfield when he decided to read a text on his phone. While he was reading the text his vehicle drifted over two travel lanes and collided with a car traveling in the opposite direction resulting in serious injuries to a child and others. The defendant quickly erased his call history showing the text message before the police arrived. When questioned by a State Trooper at the scene, he denied texting at the time of the collision. Some time after the day of the collision the police obtained a copy of Belleville’s cell phone records showing the text and he admitted that he was reading a text when the accident occurred.

Mr. Belleville was charged with second degree assault as defined in RSA 631:2(I)(a).  There was no dispute that the collision caused serious bodily injury, the question was whether Mr. Belleville’s conduct was criminally reckless? The State had to prove, among other things, that the defendant was aware of and consciously disregarded a substantial risk that his conduct would cause serious bodily injury.

The Court ruled the defendant’s conduct of checking a text qualified as criminal recklessness because to do so the defendant consciously disregarded the risk that he would cause a collision with another vehicle. The Court pointed out that Belleville erased his call history immediately after the accident and inferred that he knew the act of checking the text was the reason the collision occurred.

New Hampshire residents are continually cautioned about texting while driving. The Court has now said that if you cause a motor vehicle collision because you are reading a text while driving, you will likely face serious criminal charges.

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