Sequence of Events after Retaining an Attorney to Defend Cell Phone Ticket

Interviewer: What’s the initial arraignment going to be like, what am I going to have to do?

James Abate: If you’re retaining an attorney, you’ll probably not going to have to go to an arraignment. We’re going to issue a letter to the court pleading not guilty. We’re going to request all discovery, including any video the officer took. The video may be very helpful. The video may tell us were you driving while texting or not. It may be all on video. We may, if the stakes are high enough, want to find an expert to examine your phone and see, were you operating it during that time.

Certainly, that’s something which our experience in other avenues of DUI, and dealing with those experts, and our familiarity with the law enforcement personnel is going to help the client out greatly, plus it’s just that prosecutors are going to deal differently with the attorney than they are with the casual driver.

A Repeat Cell Phone Ticket Offender Gets His License Suspended and Could Potentially Lose His / Her Job

Interviewer: If someone does it multiple times, how is that going to reflect multiple offenses, if this person does it continuously.

James Abate: They’re going to get suspended, and when you’re suspended; in New Jersey, if you don’t have a car you can’t get to work, you can’t get to school, you can’t pick up your kids, you can’t get groceries. There is no getting around without a car in New Jersey. There is very little public transportation, and you’re done. You could potentially lose your job over it.

A Criminal Record Can be expunged but a Motor Vehicle Abstract Never Changes

Interviewer: If I have this conviction on there, would I be able to get it off my record at some point?

James Abate: If you have a criminal record, it can be expunged. You can have things hidden from it, but your motor vehicle abstract never changes, and once something goes on there it’s on forever, and cannot be removed. In some cases we might actually take a first offense of ticket for cell phone, and want to amend it to careless driving, which carries more points than it does, just because I don’t want that cell-phone offense going on there. It used to be the other way around. You’d amend a careless driving to a cell phone, but when the penalties change, so does the way you handle them.

As Per Previous Laws, Paying Cell Phone Tickets was the Common Solution, But Now It Could Lead towards Suspension of Driving License

Interviewer: Are there any particular cases that you’ve already worked with that you can give us an example of how you worked with that case, as far as a cell phone, just to give us an example of how that case pans out.

James Abate: I couldn’t give you that, because the new structure doesn’t kick in until July 1st. If somebody came to me with a cell-phone ticket previously, I would have told them, “Just pay it. Don’t even mess around. Just pay the ticket.” Of course, now that person can say, “Why did you tell me to pay that ticket, now I have two of those on there, and I’m facing a suspension.” Well, I can’t predict when laws are going to be changed, and there will be effects that were never expected.

It Might be Possible to Plea – Bargain a Cell Phone Ticket, Depending on the Area and the Prosecutor

Interviewer: How is that going to affect the people that got a ticket before July First and they still haven’t paid it yet. Is that immediately going to increase as far as the penalty goes, automatically, or if the event actually occurred after July First.

James Abate: Well, I am certainly going to make that argument for any new matters that make their way to me. I believe that there is an argument, but it may just simply be automatic. When the judge puts in a penalty, they’re just pressing a button and saying, ninety-seven point three conviction, and the computer is going to spit out what the result is supposed to be, but I think it may give us leeway to get a prosecutor to amend the charge to something different.

With DWI and drug cases, there is an Attorney-General guideline which prevents us as lawyers from plea-bargaining those cases. The only way you get out of them is going to trial. There is no such guideline for cell-phone tickets, so my expectation is that you are going to be able to plea-bargain many of these. You now have the incentive to plea-bargain them, and it’s going to vary from town to town, and prosecutor to prosecutor, whether that’s going to be available or not.

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