Monday, February 20, 2017

Ithaca DWI Lawyer: Is Using My Cell Phone for GPS or an APP Illegal in New York?

People are often confused by New York State's cell phone law. First, it's NOT just phones, it is ANY electronic device. This can include: any potentially handheld device, iPod, Nano, GPS, iPad, walkman, and of course a smartphone. Is using a handheld device with an APP like WAZE illegal as well? Would that infraction (using your phone like a GPS) be a 5 point moving violation in New York State?

New York State Makes It Illegal to Use ANY Handheld Electronic Device While Driving

So I guess the first thing is IF you are just holding the phone (or device) while driving = GUILTY
If you are holding it up to your ear or face but not looking at it = GUILTY
You see anything that occupies just ONE of your driving hands = GUILTY

Use of a Device has a Wide Definition
Under NYS Law

Using an Electronic Device in New York State VTL 1225 is a Serious Traffic Offense with 5 Points

Using any electronic device is legally defined as:

 "Using" shall mean holding (but can also mean touching, clicking, pushing) a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data.

The main point always being ONE of your driving hands is pre-occupied with USE of a device. Many judges will use this definition and believe the police officer if he says you were focused on the USE of the device. This is the key to distracted driving, where your sole attention is NOT upon the road.

New York State as opposed to Florida believes people need both hands on the wheel.

There are Five Very Clear Exceptions to New York State Electronic Device Use VTL 1225

The five defenses to this serious traffic infraction:

1. When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone, without the use of either hand, hands-free.
2. Using an electronic device that is affixed (attached) to a vehicle surface, like the windshield or dash. They sell these to attach to your air conditioning vents and/or dashboard.
3. Using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle.
4. If the purpose of the phone call is in an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician's office, or an ambulance corps.
5. If you are operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties

CDL (Truckers) Drivers Higher Standards and New York 1225 Electronic Device Tickets

CDL license holders are held to an even higher standard than the general public. If the device is:

1. Mounted, affixed, or attached to the vehicle but requires the pushing of more than one button then that is illegal;
2. If the device is near their ear, and not being used then that is illegal;
3. If they are stopped in traffic, waiting for cars to move and use or touch then that is illegal;
4. Holds an electronic device in a conspicuous manner while in traffic then that is illegal.

In other words, it shouldn't be anywhere near, around, or close to you while driving. You should get a handsfree set up.  

Now that said, a good traffic defense attorney should be able to negotiate this serious violation to a reduced level. No one and I mean NO One wants a five point ticket on their driving history for reasons of car insurance rates, potential future license suspension, and driver fines, fees, and surcharges.