NJ cell phone tickets carry surprisingly harsh penalties. I have taken to trial hundreds of cell phone and other traffic tickets in New Jersey as a municipal court prosecutor. While these cases can be tough, there are ways to get a NJ cell phone ticket dismissed. I draw on this experience when assisting private clients in defending against cell phone violations as a NJ defense attorney.
A lot of people try representing themselves when accused of a cell phone violation.
NJ Cell Phone Violation Law Defenses
Cell phone violations in New Jersey are governed by NJSA 39:4-97.3. That law provides that using a wireless phone or any electronic communication device is unlawful under certain circumstances. First, the law requires that the violation be committed on a public road or highway. Being on “private” or “quasi-private” property can therefore be a defense.
The law also requires that your vehicle be “moving”. Sometimes people are given cell phone tickets while stopped at a traffic light, stop sign, or pulled over to the side of the road. Cell phone tickets should be dismissed if the operator of the cell phone was not driving the vehicle when the violation was observed.
Penalties for Violating the Cell Phone Law
NJ Law provides for the following penalties for a cell phone violation:
- 1st Offense: fine of between $200 and $400
- 2nd Offense: fine of between $400 and $600
- 3rd Offense: fine of between $600 and $800, driver’s license suspension of up to 90 days, 3 points on your license.
NJ Cell Phone Ticket Law Exceptions
There are two general exceptions to NJ cell phone violations. The first is when the person making the call is the victim of a crime and needs immediate police assistance. They are allowed to call 911 for help in such a situation.
The second exception relates to reporting an emergency. For example, you may use a hand held cell phone to report a fire, car crash, or other dangerous condition. You may also use a cell phone to report another driver who operates their vehicle recklessly or who appears to be drunk.
Case Law – State V. Malone
There have not been many appellate cases in New Jersey that have commented on the cell phone state. In one well known case however, the Superior Court – Appellate Division reversed a cell phone violation conviction. The case is unpublished, meaning that is not supposed to be relied on as legal authority. However it does offer persuasive guidance to lawyers and courts.
There are three main takeaways from the Malone case. The first is that the NJ cell phone law does not limit the use of a hands-free telephone to listening to a call. This is because a driver using a cell phone can also hold the phone in one hand while activating, deactivating or initiating a function of the telephone. The second is that you may initiate a function of the hands-free wireless telephone includes dialing. The third is that you may activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the cell phone without violating the statute. These points can be used to get a NJ cell phone ticket dismissed.