We have been fielding a number of inquires on if Amateur Radio (2-way radio) is exempt from the updated "hands-free" law that went into effect on January 1st of this year. The language of the legislation is "all inclusive" and tends to, by default, wrap 2-way radio use into the prohibition.
Amateur licensees in the Pacific and South West Divisions of ARRL have been working on this issue. The original bill's sponsor has been contacted a number of times. The CHP command has also been contacted.
As a result, the CHP has issued a memo to its officers advising that "a radio installed and mounted in a vehicle with a wired hand microphone is not considered a wireless communications device........and therefore is not subject to enforcement under this section." That memo was issued on March 28, 2017.
More recently, the sponsoring assemblyman entered into the Assembly Journal a letter establishing the legislative intent of the law. Essentially, the letter states that common 2-way, wired radio use was not intended to be addressed by the newer hands-free law. This letter was published in the Assembly Journal on April 27, 2017.
Please note: Use of an HT would still be a violation. The radio must be mounted and the microphone be corded to the radio.
I have packaged the CHP memo and the letter to the Assembly Journal in one document. Please pass it on. Amateurs should carry copies of these documents in their vehicles to present to law enforcement officials in case they are stopped. It may, or may not, prevent them from receiving a citation.
Please remember that not all law enforcement officers will be aware of these documents, and may not follow them. Amateurs may still be cited.
I would like to hear if any Amateur is actually cited under CVC 23123.5 for using Amateur Radio.
We can all thank the past SW Div Vice Director Marty Woll N6VI, Jim Aspinwall NO1PC, Norm Lucas WB6RVR, and others behind the scenes for their valiant effort to move this clarification forward. The effort is not over, as equally ambiguous language is being promoted in the revision to the law moving through the legislature now.
Please remind everyone that they must still not use their radios in a manner that detracts from their safe operation of their vehicle. Drivers can still be cited under the very broad "distracted driving" code section.