Bill to Increase Penalties for Texting While Driving Advances in New Jersey
New Penalties Would Include Higher Fines, Points and Possible Driver’s License Suspension.
Texting and driving might soon merit much tougher penalties in the Garden State owing to a new bill that was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on Thursday, December 13th.
At the moment, a ticket for driving while texting carries a $100 fine. This new legislation, if enacted, will create a graduated fine ladder for subsequent offenses: the new first offense fine will be $200, then $400 for a second offense, and finally $600 for all third or additional offenses.
In addition to monetary fines, other penalties will now be levied for talking and/or texting while driving if the bill becomes law. They include a discretionary 90-day driver’s license suspension for any driver convicted of a third or subsequent offense; these multiple repeat offenders would further receive three (3) motor vehicle penalty points on their driver’s abstract.
There is one ray of light for repeat offenders: if the second offense occurs more than ten (10) years after the first offense, the offending motorist would be treated as a first time offender for sentencing purposes.
One of the bill’s primary sponsors, Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz (Union, Morris and Somerset), believes her legislation will improve public safety by cracking down on “habitual offenders” on New Jersey’s roads:
Driving is a privilege that comes with a responsibility to give full attention to the road… [t]hose who fail to take this responsibility seriously endanger themselves, the passengers in their car and other drivers. Unfortunately, there are still too many drivers who don’t abide by the current law. Increasing the fines and penalties for those who are habitual offenders will get their attention. Respecting and abiding by the rules of the road is not an option, it is mandatory.”
We’ll keep you apprised of any further developments. The legislation now needs to be voted on by the full state Assembly; companion legislation is also working its way through the state Senate. If it passes through both chambers, the bill will head to Governor Chris Christie’s desk for either his signature or veto.
In the interim, if you or someone you know is facing traffic-related charges in a New Jersey Municipal Court ranging from DUI/DWI charges to license suspensions, contact the attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele today. Email us now for your confidential and free initial consultation. You can also reach us by telephone (856) 546-1350.
A copy of Assemblywoman Muñoz’s proposed legislation is below the fold…
ASSEMBLY, No. 1080
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION
Assemblywoman ANNETTE QUIJANO
District 20 (Union)
Assemblywoman L. GRACE SPENCER
District 29 (Essex)
Assemblywoman NANCY F. MUNOZ
District 21 (Morris, Somerset and Union)
Assemblyman WAYNE P. DEANGELO
District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)
Assemblyman ANGEL FUENTES
District 5 (Camden and Gloucester)
Assemblyman PAUL D. MORIARTY
District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)
Assemblyman Diegnan, Assemblywoman Handlin, Assemblymen McKeon and Ciattarelli
Increases fine and imposes license suspension for talking or texting on hand-held device while driving.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel
AN ACT concerning the use of wireless telephones and electronic communication devices in motor vehicles and amending P.L.2003, c.310.
BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) is amended to read as follows:
1. 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 a hands-free wireless telephone or the electronic communication device is used hands-free, provided that its placement does not interfere with the operation of federally required safety equipment and the operator exercises a high degree of caution in the operation of the motor vehicle. For the purposes of this section, an “electronic communication device” shall not include an amateur radio.
Nothing in P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3 et seq.) shall apply to the use of a citizen’s band radio or two-way radio by an operator of a moving commercial motor vehicle or authorized emergency vehicle on a public road or highway.
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 the operator of another motor vehicle who is driving in a reckless, careless or otherwise unsafe manner or who appears to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A hand-held wireless telephone user’s telephone records or the testimony or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such calls shall be deemed sufficient evidence of the existence of all lawful calls made under this paragraph.
As used in this act:
“Citizen’s band radio” means a mobile communication device designed to allow for the transmission and receipt of radio communications on frequencies allocated for citizen’s band radio service use.
“Hands-free wireless telephone” means a mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of such mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a conversation without the use of either hand; provided, however, this definition shall not preclude the use of either hand to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the telephone.
“Two-way radio” means two-way communications equipment that uses VHF frequencies approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
“Use” of a wireless telephone or electronic communication device shall include, but not be limited to, talking or listening to another person on the telephone, text messaging, or sending an electronic message via the wireless telephone or electronic communication device.
c. (Deleted by amendment, P.L.2007, c.198).
d. A person who violates this section shall be fined [$100] $200 for a first offense, $400 for a second offense, and $600 for a third or subsequent offense. For a third or subsequent violation, the court, in its discretion, may order the person to forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State for a period of 90 days. In addition, a person convicted of a third or subsequent violation shall be assessed three motor vehicle penalty points pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1982, c.43 (C39:5-30.5.
A person who has been convicted of a previous violation of this section need not be charged as a second of subsequent offender in the complaint made against him in order to render him liable to the punishment imposed by this section on a second or subsequent offender, but if the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense, the court shall treat the second conviction as a first offense for sentencing purposes and if a third offense occurs more than 10 years after the second offense, the court shall treat the third conviction as a second offense for sentencing purposes.
e. [No] Except as provided in subsection d. of this section, no motor vehicle penalty points or automobile insurance eligibility points pursuant to section 26 of P.L.1990, c.8 (C.17:33B-14) shall be assessed for this offense.
f. The Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission shall develop and undertake a program to notify and inform the public as to the provisions of this act.
g. Whenever this section is used as an alternative offense in a plea agreement to any other offense in Title 39 of the Revised Statutes that would result in the assessment of motor vehicle points, the penalty shall be the same as the penalty for a violation of section 1 of P.L.2000, c.75 (C.39:4-97.2), including the surcharge imposed pursuant to subsection f. of that section, and a conviction under this section shall be considered a conviction under section 1 of P.L.2000, c.75 (C.39:4-97.2) for the purpose of determining subsequent enhanced penalties under that section.
(cf: P.L.2010, c.40, s.1)
2. This act shall take effect on the first day of the thirteenth month following enactment.
This bill imposes increased fines for multiple offenses of talking on a hand-held wireless telephone or texting a message with a hand-held wireless electronic communication device while driving.
Under current law, the fine for this motor vehicle violation is $100. This bill would increase that fine to $200 for a first offense, $400 for a second offense, and $600 for third or subsequent offenses.
The bill also permits the court at its discretion to impose a 90-day driver’s license suspension for persons convicted of the offense for a third or subsequent time. In addition, third and subsequent offenders would receive three motor vehicle penalty points.
Under the bill, a person convicted of a second offense of driving while talking or texting on a hand-held device would be treated as a first time offender for sentencing purposes if the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense. Similarly, a person convicted of a third offense would be treated as a second-time offender for sentencing purposes if the third offense occurs more than ten years after the second offense.