New York State is deeply serious about discouraging drivers from engaging in distracted driving. In recent years, it has enacted some of the toughest electronic device laws in the country, annually issues 100,000s of traffic tickets for illegally using an electronic device and cell phone, and has some of the toughest penalties in the country.
To help clarify the ins and outs of NYC electronic device and cell phone traffic tickets, let’s break down what New York state defines as improper electronic device and cell phone use, what the penalties are, and what to do if you happen to receive an NYC electronic device or cell phone ticket.
Defining Proper Use of a Cell Phone While Driving
As of 2014, the defined parameters of illegal electronic device or cell phone use in NYC are incredibly broad. In fact, if you are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle in New York state and holding an electronic device, there is a presumption that you are illegally using it! This means that you, the driver, has the burden to prove that you were not “using” it. This procedural shift makes it VERY hard to beat these tickets. It also means that you should NEVER hold an electronic device while driving (even if you are not using it).
Prohibited activities include:
- Speaking into a handheld device
- Swiping a screen
- Taking a photo with its camera
- Reading or writing any transmittable data, such as email, SMS or social media post
- Plus any other use
You will note that these are intentionally very broad activities. The goal of the law is to discourage any use of mobile devices in NYC while behind the wheel.
However, there are a few activities that are permissible, which are strictly defined:
- Cell phone conversations using a hands-free device that allows the driver to keep both hands on the wheel at all times
- Making emergency calls, such as calling 911, police, fire, ambulance, or a physician
- Being authorized by the state for emergency response, such as working as an EMT in an official capacity
Payment and Admission of Guilt
If you receive a traffic ticket in NYC, intuitively your first instinct might be to pay it off immediately. However, paying off your NYC cell phone ticket is an admission of guilt.
Your first step should be to contact an NYC electronic device or cell phone ticket lawyer with experience contesting such traffic violations. They will provide you with a solid legal strategy to try and achieve the best possible result.
Cost of a Cell Phone Ticket in NYC
NYC cell phone ticket penalties have, since November 1, 2014, rose to the following punitive measures:
- First offense: $50 to $200 fine
- Second offense within 18 months: $50 to $250 fine
- Third offense, or any additional offenses within 18 months: $50 to $450 fine
- For each violation, ticket fee surcharges cost up to $93
This may come as a surprise if you have researched this topic before. Before July 26th, 2013, the fines capped out at $100 per violation with an $85 maximum surcharge. The scaling penalties are meant to discourage repeat offenses, and much higher penalties even for first offenses.
The Number of Points on Your License Added By Electronic Device and Cell Phone Ticket Violations
For each violation, 5 driver violation points are added to your New York State driver’s license.
There are potential consequences to racking up points in the New York driver violation point system. Crossing the 5-point threshold (i.e., having just one other moving violation conviction within 18 months), results in you being subject to the NYS Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee. For 6 points the Fee is $300. For each point above 6, you will be charged an additional $75. If you hit 11 points, your license can be suspended.
Defending Against an Electronic Device or Cell Phone Ticket in NYC
As noted above, your very first step should be to consult with an NYC electronic device or cell phone ticket lawyer that has experience with similar cases in the NYC area. Your next step will most likely be to return your ticket to the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB), filling out the relevant portion of the ticket to note your plea of “Not Guilty.”
Then, you will be scheduled with a date and time for a hearing. The entry of a not guilty plea can be done on the TVB website, by mail or by visiting the office in person (we recommend doing it online).
Consult with your NYC traffic ticket lawyer on the best date and time for your case.
Then, you will have to gather any evidence you can to help you defend your NYC electronic device or cell phone ticket. This includes:
- Any photographic or video evidence gathered by someone in or near your vehicle
- Drawing a diagram of the location where the ticketing occurred, to decide whether the NYPD officer who issued the ticket was able to clearly see you use a cell phone
- Gathering statements from any witnesses
- Noting useful contextual information, such as if you were making an emergency call
- Presenting your statement from your mobile phone carrier
- Using app data on the smartphone itself to track how it was being used at a given time
- Noting GPS location data at the time of the incident
Despite the somewhat draconian reputation of NYC electronic device and cell phone tickets, your basic rights still apply here:
- You are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (except perhaps on the element of illegal “use” as explained above)
- There is no need to immediately pay high fines and receive driver’s license penalties in New York State or anywhere in the United States without a fight.
- The police officer must appear for your hearing and prove his case against you
Leverage these rights and make sure you receive the best defense by contacting us today to fight your NYC electronic device and cell phone ticket.