Cell Phone Tickets And Penalties, VTL § 1225-c

A cell phone ticket can be a hefty violation if not handled the right way, so it is important to know what qualifies Use Of Mobile Telephones, VTL § 1225-c and what the penalties are.

The Law

Commercial drivers are also bound by VTL § 1225-c, but with more stringent requirements. However, a non-commercial driver is in violation of the law when he or she is operating (driving) a vehicle while using a mobile telephone ("cell phone"). The law says a person is considered to be "using" a cell phone when he or she holds the phone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while the car is in motion.

That is a fancy way of saying a person must 1) be actively driving and 2) have a cell phone either to his ear or near his ear. The only exception to this law is when a person is using his or her phone in an emergency situation like calling the fire department, police, or 911. There are also exceptions for persons who use a cell phone while in the performance of their official duties (i.e. police officer). Also excluded is holding a cell phone to 1) activate, 2) deactivate or 3) initiate a function of the phone.

Definitions To Keep In Mind

"Using" a cell phone: means holding a phone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the driver's ear while the car is in motion.

"Engage in a call." This means talking into a cell phone or listening on one. It does not include holding a cell phone to 1) activate, 2) deactivate or  3) initiate a function of the phone.     

"Immediate proximity." This means the distance that allows the person using a phone to hear communications transmitted from it.  Immediate proximity does not require physical contact with a person's ear.

This definition is somewhat tricky because it does not define a distance. It is a broad meaning and can be different for each driver.  

Monetary Penalties

Fines have increased over the years. For example, before July 26, 2013 a cell phone violation was up to $100.00. Today fines are much more and range depending on whether the violation is a first, second or third offense. Fines for violations committed on or after November 1, 2014 are:

First offense, fine ranges from $50 to $200

Second offense within 18 months, fine ranges from $50 to $250

Third offense within 18 months, fine ranges from $50 to $450

Town and village surcharges are $93 and all other court surcharges are $88.

Plus, it can trigger a driver responsibility assessment fee if driver already has points on his or her driving record. It can also cause major car insurance premium increases over the course of years, which translates into major money.

Point Penalties

Conviction of a cell phone violation currently carries 5 points. However, violations committed after February 16, 2011 carry 2 points; violations committed after October 5, 2011 carry 3 points; and violations committed after June 1, 2013 carry 3 points.

Special Penalties for New and Probationary Drivers

A person who holds a learner's permit or a probationary license after July 26, 2013 is subject to a 60 day suspension for a cell phone conviction. A second offense within six months carries another 60 day suspension for a junior license holder. A probationary license holder is subject to a six month suspension.

Currently, however, drivers 18 years and younger or probationary drivers face a 120 suspension. A second offense committee will result in a one-year revocation for a learner permit holder, probationary driver, and Class DJ or MJ driver license holder.

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