Effective July 1, 2014, revisions to New Jersey’s cell phone law, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3, will result in enhanced penalties for cell phone tickets. These enhanced penalties include increased fines, the imposition of motor vehicle points, and possible driving privilege suspensions.
The increased penalties are the result of information demonstrating that driver distractions were a major factor in 1.4 million motor vehicle accidents in New Jersey from 2004 through 2013. Driver distraction represented about half of all crashes that occurred during that time period.
Under the current law, fines and penalties are as follows:
Prior to the new cell phone law, the fine for a first-time cell phone ticket offender was $100.00. Under the new law, however, a first offense results in a fine of between $200.00 and $400.00. A second offense carries a fine of between $400.00 and $600.00. A third or subsequent offense will result in a fine of between $600.00 and $800.00. The proceeds from the fines are split between the municipality and the state.
For a third or subsequent violation, the court may suspend your driving privileges for a period of 90 days. The decision of whether or not to suspend the license of an individual in these circumstances is up to the discretion of the court. If you are facing possible suspension time, it is imperative that you retained an experienced traffic defense attorney to avoid this outcome.
If you are a third or subsequent offender, a violation of 39:4-97.3 may not only result in a 90-day suspension of your driving privileges, but also in the assessment of three (3) motor vehicle points on your driving record.
Many people have already received a first or second cell phone violation. If you have already pleaded guilty to two or more prior cell phone violations, then these prior convictions can be used against you. In addition to the substantial fines that may be assessed, you are now facing the suspension of your driving privileges and the assessment of three motor vehicle points. Prior out-of-state cell phone violations will not be counted against you. The court will, however, go back as far as ten years and will count all prior New Jersey cell phone violations against you – even those violations that occurred before the cell phone law was amended in July of 2014 to provide for enhanced penalties.
If you are facing your first or second cell phone violation, as explained above, the court will only impose a fine. No points or suspension time will be imposed. Thus, for those individuals facing a first or second cell phone violation, it simply does not make sense to retain an attorney to fight the ticket, unless, however, you determine that such a ticket would somehow effect your employment.