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Aggravating Factors for Cell Phone Ticket and Distracted Driving Charges


Interviewer: What could possibly make their case worse than it is when it comes to cell-phone usage?

James Abate: I think that’s multiple offenses, priors, and causing an accident. Those are the things which I think are going to affect the texting driver or the cell-phone driver.

Interviewer: What do you predict would be someone’s immediate needs once they sit down and meet with you? What are the first things that they’re going to want to know?

James Abate: We’re going to need to get a copy of their driver’s abstract to see if there are any priors, and many people get them and forget about them. We’re going to need to take a look at their cell-phone records. We’re going to need to get video from the police officer, and get a copy of the police officer’s notes to see if he indicated why he thought they were using a cell phone.

A Defense Attorney Will Have to Improvise and Utilize All His Resources to Prevent a Conviction

Interviewer: Do you think later on down the line there may some sort of leniency for first-time offenders, like computer programs or anything like that?

James Abate: I think it’s going to depend on the police officer, and the prosecutor, and on the lawyer. I think if you walk in without a lawyer, you’re not getting any leniency. I think that they will say, “Sorry, that’s the new law, you’ve got to deal with it.” If you have an attorney, and they’re somewhat creative just using the defenses and using the facts of the case, and whether they know the prosecutor well or not, could prevent you from being convicted.

The Laws May Vary from State to State but Every State is a Member of the Interstate Driver’s Compact

Interviewer: What if they were from other states, a nearby state that had different laws, that had laws that were a little bit less harsh than New Jersey’s with regards to this, could that be something that may help them out?

James Abate: Every state pretty much is part of the Interstate Drivers Compact, which means that when an offense occurs, when you get pulled over, it’s going to get reported to your home state.

What if you get a ticket for cell phone in another state. Will New Jersey consider that a prior? That we don’t know the answer to. In New Jersey, it’s generally two points for the out-of-state ticket, but the offense will show, so it will say, out of State cell-phone driving. Does that count for a prior now?

The New Law Regarding Enhanced Penalties For Cell Phone Usage is Only Applicable to Drivers, Not Passengers

Interviewer: Now, this doesn’t affect passengers or anything like that? Passengers could be using the phones all the time, right?

James Abate: No, no. It’s just the driver that’s going to have the repercussions. It’s not illegal to talk on the phone unless you’re operating the vehicle.

Interviewer: What’s going to happen to an individual, just out of curiosity, that was texting and intoxicated?

James Abate: Now they could say it’s an additional three-month suspension in addition to their intoxication. The police officers may just charge that cell phone with anyone who they think is DWI, so if they lose the DWI they still get them on the cell-phone violation.

Under Aged Cell Phone Offenders in New Jersey

Interviewer: What if this person was under the age of eighteen, sixteen-year-olds.

James Abate: They shouldn’t be driving.

Interviewer: Will they be able to get a driver’s license?

James Abate: You’re not permitted to operate a cell phone while you are in a probationary period, or while you have your permit, and you’re required to have these red tags on your vehicle so that police can tell that you are a new driver.

Interviewer: I see. If that’s the case, and they’re using a phone, what’s going to happen to them?

James Abate: They’re going to lose their license for a lot longer than three months.

Enhanced Penalties of Up to a $1000 Fine and Loss of Driver’s License Have Catapulted Cell Phone Tickets into the Realm of Serious Offenses

Interviewer: Is there any other information about this that you’d like to share, more tidbits that you think you’d like to throw out?

James Abate: No. Just say that I think that the new penalties are going to drastically change the way that cell phones are enforced by law enforcement, they’re going to change the way that attorneys treat the case, and they’re going to change the way that judges handle these cases. There’s going to be a lot more power to crush people, and whenever it happens it’s used. I think that people are going to be well advised to consult with an attorney before handling any case involving a cell phone, because it could end up resulting in your losing your license and close to a thousand dollars. That’s what I’d say, is, any cell phone ticket, consult a lawyer immediately and they’ll be able to lead you through the way to effectively handle one of these cases.

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