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NY Cell Phone Law 5 points As Of June 2013

New NY cell phone law now adds 5 points to your NY license as of June 2013.  New York simply does not want drivers distracted by the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices while driving and the penalties if convicted of this offense keep getting more severe.

Summary of the law on texting, portable electronic devices and cell phone usewhile driving in NYS – VTL Sec. 1225-c and 1225-d.

Drivers are not permitted to use portable, hand-help mobile cell phones while operating a vehicle.  This is a New York State law and applies to using a cell phone while driving in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau County and everywhere else in the state.  If an officer observes you using a cell phone while operating a vehicle,  you run a serious risk of getting issued a cell phone ticket.  Same for texting and portable electronic devices in general.  Distracted driving is a big issue and officers are actively looking for these violations.  You simply cannot drive and operate a cell phone or portable electronic device while your vehicle is in motion, or at all if you are a Commercial Driver (see below for the distinction as of October 28, 2013).  The exception is to call or contact 911 or legitimate medical, fire or police personell about an actual in progress emergency.  You must be on the phone with the emergency personell and be able to document the call and the emergency if you plan to use this defense in court.

Cell Phone Ticket Points.  The history of points added to your license from a cell phone violation and texting/other portable electronic device violations is as follows:

  • If you cell phone ticket was issued prior to February 16, 2011, there are no points added to your license if convicted.
  • For cell phone tickets issued between February 16, 2011 and October 4, 2011, a conviction for the violation adds two points to your license.
  • For cell phone tickets issued between October 5, 2011 and May 31, 2013, a conviction for the violation adds three points to your license.
  • For cell phone tickets issued on or after June 1, 2013, a conviction for the violation adds five points to your license.

Cell Phone Ticket Fines

Effective July 26, 2013, fines for texting or using a cell phone while driving will increase as follows:

  • For a first offense, $50 to $150.
  • For a second offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $200.
  • For a third or subsequent offense committed within 18 months, $50 to $400.

Tickets issued to Commercial Drivers for using a cell phone, texting or other portable electronic device.

On October 28, 2013, a few changes/additions to the law are set to kick in regarding commercial drivers (CDL holders) driving commercial vehicles.  The most notable in my opinion is that drivers of commercial vehicles are singled out and prohibited from using their cell phone or texting while their vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic or a signal or other delay.  They must pull over to a portion of the road designated for non-moving traffic.  Non commercial drivers can in theory operate a phone or device while stopped at a light or in traffic.

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Bottom line?  Again, officers are looking to issue these tickets.  Not every officer is going to be that concerned or necessarily knowledgable concerning the date new laws kick in or the minor differences regarding certain aspects of the law, commercial driver vs non commercial drivers, etc.  If an officer sees you in a vehicle and looking down, holding or otherwise playing around with a phone, other communication device , ipod or other type of entertainment device, you risk getting a ticket.  Do NOT rely on the exact facts (and an “easy win” as clients like to say) always coming out in court.  Do not rely on “proof” such as cell phone bills.  There is never any certainty that the bill provided in court is indeed the bill for the phone in question and, even if there is, not every act (reading email, texting, listening to voice messages) shows on a bill.

The BEST defense, and clearly the safest way to drive and avoid a now five point and increasingly costly ticket for talking on your phone while driving is to simply not touch your device once you get in the car.

By Scott Feifer