Category Archives: municipal law
Let’s explore NJ rules regarding using a cell phone while driving. In this day and age, your cell phone is one of the few things you never leave home without. It allows us to stay in touch 24/7 with family, friends and work. Unfortunately, a lot of motorists use are using a cell phone while driving. Use of your cell phone is broadly defined to include talking, texting and the like.
I’m sure you have seen it every day on your commute to and from work. Not only can it distract someone who is driving and lead to an accident, it can also subject a person to motor vehicle fines, points and driver’s license suspensions.
In this article, I will discuss, N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3, commonly known as a “cell phone while driving violation.”
N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 (cell phone while driving) provides:
“(a) The use of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device by an operator of a moving motor vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is hands-free wireless telephone or the electronic communication device is used hands-free…”
The key component to remember in this portion of the statute is that if you are driving a motor vehicle on a public road/highway and you are using a cell phone/electronic communication device it needs to be hands-free. If not, there is a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3.
Hands-free means the phone has an internal feature or function, or that the phone is equipped with a phone attachment whereby a user can engage in a conversation without the use of their hands
This statute does contain certain limited exceptions to this prohibition. Those exceptions are as follows:
“(b) The operator of a motor vehicle may use a hand-held wireless telephone while driving with one hand on the steering wheel only if:
(1) The operator has reason to fear for his life or safety, or believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against himself or another person; or
(2) The operator is using the telephone to report to appropriate authorities a fire, a traffic accident, a serious road hazard or medical or hazardous materials emergency, or to report … another motor vehicle who is driving in a reckless, careless or otherwise unsafe manner or who appears to be driving under the influence…”
Penalties for Violating N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 (cell phone while driving)
- First offense – a fine of $200.00 to $400.00. No motor vehicle penalty points.
- Second offense – a fine of $400.00 to $600.00. No motor vehicle penalty points.
Third or subsequent offense – a fine of $600.00 to $800.00. Three (3) motor vehicle points are assessed. The Court, in its discretion, may order a license suspension for a period of 90 days.
A cell phone while driving conviction that occurs more than ten (10) years after a prior conviction for the same offense, will not be considered a subsequent offense for sentencing purposes.
Before you plead guilty to any motor vehicle violation and incur fines and possible suspension of your driving privileges, schedule an appointment with an attorney experienced in handling these matters.
New Jersey unsafe driving violation. What does it mean and why is it important to understand the law. Over the past 35 years, our firm has represented hundreds of clients who received traffic tickets for violations of the New Jersey traffic laws. New Jersey traffic tickets can involve an assessment of motor vehicle points, payment of fines, suspension of driving privileges, surcharges and court costs (or a combination thereof). Most clients are concerned about the imposition of motor vehicle points because an assessment of points on your record can lead to an increased likelihood of a driver’s license suspension or an increase in automobile insurance rates.
In this article, I will discuss [N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.2], commonly known as “unsafe operation” or “unsafe driving violation.” An unsafe driving violation operates as a “catch-all” provision that broadly states:
“(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, it shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner likely to endanger a person or property…”
Offenses, Fines and Penalties for an NJ Unsafe Driving Violation
A first unsafe driving violation is subject to a fine of not less than $50.00 nor more than $150.00. Importantly, no motor vehicle penalty points are assessed to first time offenders.
A second unsafe driving violation is subject to a fine of not less than $100.00 nor more than $250.00. As with a first offense, no motor vehicle points are assessed to second time offenders.
A third or subsequent unsafe driving violation is subject to a fine of not less than $200.00 nor more than $500.00. However, four motor vehicle points will be assessed to your record.
An offense, however, that occurs more than five years after a prior offense for the same violation will not be considered a subsequent offense for purposes of assessing motor vehicle penalty points. In addition to any fine, fee or charge imposed by the Court, a person convicted of this unsafe driving offense will be assessed a surcharge of $250.00.
A crucial benefit of unsafe driving violation, when compared to harsher offenses, is that no motor vehicle points are assessed until a driver is convicted of a third or subsequent offense, only if that third or subsequent offense occurs within five years of a prior conviction for the same “unsafe driving” offense.
Do I Need A Lawyer for an unsafe driving violation?
Before you plead guilty to any motor vehicle violation or traffic ticket in the State of New Jersey and incur fines, fees, potential points on your driving record, or suspension of your driving privileges, you should consider speaking with an experienced attorney about your legal matter. An experienced attorney may likely be able to assist the client and mitigate a violation to avoid an unwanted and costly outcome.
For more information regarding the New Jersey Driver Points System read our article.
In New Jersey, driving is a privilege, not a right. Your privilege to drive is subject to continued adherence of the State’s traffic laws. Violating the traffic laws, whether it is one motor vehicle conviction or repeat offenses, will have consequences. The consequences range from fines, to points assessed to your driving record, and to possible suspensions or revocations of your driving privileges.
New Jersey implements a driving points point system for traffic violations to track driver records and prevent abuse from drivers’ with habitual offenses. Points can be given in increments ranging from 2 to 8, depending on the severity of the violation. It is important to know that points are only assessed for traffic violations, not parking violations.
How Does the New Jersey Driving Points System Affect My Driving Privileges and Insurance?
The New Jersey driving points system can seriously affect your driving privileges and your insurance rates. If you received a total of 6 points within a 3 year window, you will be assessed a surcharge of $150, which is a charge in addition to the other fines stemming from the individual offenses. See N.J.S.A. 13:19-10.4. If you receive 12 points, in a period of two or less years, your license will be suspended. See N.J.S.A. 13:19-10.2. Following the 12th point, additional points will increase the period of suspension.
Ancillary costs of a suspended license will result in higher insurance rates and premiums. This occurs because insurance providers can and will access your driving record, which includes the New Jersey point system history.
Do I Need A Lawyer for My Driving Points?
Before you plead guilty to any motor vehicle violation or traffic ticket in the State of New Jersey that will incur fees, fines, potential points on your record, or a possible suspension of your driving privileges, you should consider speaking with an experienced attorney about your matter. An experienced attorney may likely be able to assist the client and mitigate a violation to avoid an unwanted and costly outcome.