Investigator Exclusive: Prosecutor calls Cleveland texting ban 'toothless tiger'

1:26 PM, Feb 16, 2010   |    comments
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Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce was reacting to a Channel 3 News review of tickets that Cleveland police issued for texting while driving.

Joyce prosecuted William Miralia for hitting school teacher Linda Kupiec while he was texting and driving.

Miralia was convicted on a vehicle assault charge, but the judge in the case said it was reckless of Miralia to be texting and driving at the same time.

Miralia spoke exclusively with the Investigator Tom Meyer inside the Geauga County jail.

"Look what happened to me," Miralia said. "I took my eyes off the road to receive a text, read the text, and as much as you think you're looking down and looking up, something can happen in that split second that you're not looking up."

Miralia supports texting bans like the one in Cleveland, even though only one individual had to pay a fine after being issued a ticket.

Since the law went into effect, only 10 tickets have been issued in Cleveland. Of those 10 tickets issued in 7 months, Channel 3 News found that seven were dismissed, two are pending, and only one individual was forced to pay a fine of $100.

Joyce reacted to the findings, saying, "It says that law is basically a toothless tiger, and you shouldn't have laws on the book that don't have an impact."

The problem in Cleveland is that no one seems to know how to enforce the law.

The city's law director Robert Triozzi told Channel 3 that breaking the law is a secondary offense, meaning police must see you commit another violation before citing you for texting.

Zach Reed, the Cleveland city councilman who crafted the legislation, said it's a primary offense, meaning police can pull you over simply for texting while driving.

And the head of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Union, Steve Loomis, said he doesn't know how to enforce it.

"I've got 17 years on the job and I still don't know how to enforce it," Loomis said.

Still, Miralia says laws like the one in Cleveland need to be passed statewide and, somehow, be better enforced.

"Most people think they're very competent at texting and think this couldn't happen to them," Miralia said. "This was a terrible accident that could happen to anybody. You live your life trying to do the right thing and one accident and it's life-changing."


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