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Common Misconceptions Regarding the Recent Cell Phone Ticket Law Implemented in New Jersey


Interviewer: What do you think are going to be some of the more common mistakes, or common misunderstandings that people are going to have about this law? What sort of confusion people are going to have?

James Abate: I think people are not going to understand that they have faced a prior offense and that they’re now subject to a suspension. I think people are going to not understand the intricacies of the cell-phone law, and as you were just talking about, pushing a button to operate a device as being indicative of a legal activity, as opposed to illegal activity. Between you and I and the State Legislature, the people that need to worry about it are the people who are constantly looking at the phone, not somebody who’s just operating the button, but that operation could very well kick in the additional penalties.

This Law Affects Distracted Drivers equally, whether it’s a Cell Phone User or Someone Putting on Makeup While Driving

Interviewer: This cannot only affect the casual cell-phone user that … Or hand-held device user that’s changing a song on their player, but it’s going to affect that person the same it would someone who’s putting on makeup and texting simultaneously.

James Abate: That’s correct. That’s correct, but that has been the case for some time.

Potential Timeframe of Resolution for a Cell Phone Ticket or Distracted Driving Case

Interviewer: How long do you think a case like this would last? Would it be as long as a DUI case?

James Abate: We can’t say at this time, though I suppose that there’s going to be opportunities to retain an expert. Maybe someone who can examine the phone and say what was happening on this phone at this time. If you’re facing a three-month suspension, you may want to go that route. I was just going to say, we don’t know at this point how prosecutors are going to handle these. We don’t know how judges are going to handle these. We don’t know if some judges are going to be open to the suggestion that a prior offense is not going to count for the suspension, and whether they will allow you to start with the subsequent offense as occurring after July First.

Public Knowledge of Cell Phone Ticket and Distracted Driving Charges

Interviewer: Let’s say I got a ticket for cell-phone usage, how is that going to look on my record if I’m convicted of this.

James Abate: I think there are a lot of employers, who, if they see that, they’re going to be … They’re going to say … They’re not going to like it. I think insurance carriers don’t like it because it leads to some of the accidents that they don’t want to pay for.

There is No Arrest or DMV Hearing. A Ticket is Issued Along with a Court Date

Interviewer: What’s the first step going to be? Do people actually get arrested for this?

James Abate: No, there’s not going to be an arrest. You’ll get issued a ticket with a court date, and you owe, and that’s it.

Interviewer: What about with a DMV. Is it going to work the same way? Would I have to have a DMV hearing as well?

James Abate: No. There’s not going to be a DMV hearing. The suspension will be handled by the judge.

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