New Jersey frowns upon use of cell phones while driving. That would include, of course, texting while driving. The specific statute that deals with cell phones while driving is N.J.S. 39:4-97.3.
The New Jersey statute never actually uses the term “cell phone.” Rather, (in typical lawyer language) it specifies use of a “wireless telephone or electronic communication device”. Citizens band radios are exempt, as are use of two-way radios in commercial vehicles or authorized emergency vehicles. New Jersey drivers are subject to the cell phone statute only when the vehicle is moving, and only when it is on a public road or highway. Hands-free devices are exempt.
Under some circumstances, New Jersey permits cell phone use, even when the device is not hands free, and even when the vehicle is moving, and even when the vehicle is on a public road or highway. The circumstances include the following:
- The driver is using the cell phone because s/he has reason to fear for his or her life or safety;
- The driver is using the cell phone because s/he believes that a criminal act may be perpetrated against him- or herself, or someone else;
- The driver is using the cell phone to report a fire, traffic accident, serious road hazard, or medical emergency;
- The driver is using the cell phone to report someone driving in a reckless, careless, or otherwise unsafe manner;
- The driver is using the cell phone to report another driver who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When the New Jersey Legislature first adopted the cell phone law in 2003, the penalty for violating it was $100.00. No points were assessed. Over the years, however, the New Jersey Legislature amended the law several times. Under the amendment that took effect on July 1, 2014, the fine now ranges from $200.00 to $400.00 for a first conviction. The fine for a second conviction ranges from $400.00 to $600.00. For a third or subsequent conviction, the fine ranges from $600.00 to $800.00. Additionally, on a third or subsequent conviction, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission assesses three penalty points. Finally, on that third or subsequent conviction, the court can order suspension of the motorist's driving privileges for up to ninety days.
Lawyers in the Law Offices of Allan Marain defend persons charged with traffic offenses. That would include use of a cell phone while driving.