By SHERRI RUGGIERI
Many people become ensnared by the law designed to stop cell phone texting while driving (N.J.SA. 39:4-97.3). While in Municipal Court, the balance of power is vested in the Judge and Prosecutor . Most defendants accept the guilty plea and pay the numerous fees. Each violation results in even greater punishments:
- First time offenders will face a fine of $200-$400.
- The fine associated with a second offense will increase to $400-$600 and
- drivers who are caught a third time or more, will face a fine of $600-$800.
- Also, beginning with the third offense, there will be three (3) points assessed to the driver’s record and there may be a 90-day driver license suspension as well.
One defendant decided not to follow the Prosecutor’s recommendation. He brought his cell phone records to show that he was not using his phone during the time of the ticket. The Judge said that he did not need to be on the cell phone to be found guilty. According to this Judge, the act of touching the cell phone to look at messages while driving is considered a violation. The defendant questioned why it is acceptable to touch a radio or drink a beverage while driving. The Judge and this defendant continued to argue about what constitutes impermissible distracted driving behaviors. The standoff concluded with the defendant agreeing that he had “touched” his cell phone and then paying the required fees. The Judge advised the people in the Courtroom to use a “hands free” devices and not be “knuckleheads.”
Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.
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