Although New Jersey statutes ban cellphone use by drivers of motor vehicles unless the device is “hands-free,” the legislature has recently enacted a statute making it a fourth-degree crime for certain persons to improperly use a cellphone in a motor vehicle. In August of 2011, it will be a crime for a driver to use a cellphone improperly by holding it in his or her hand if the driver is serving a suspension for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The police may stop a driver suspected of improperly using a cellphone. The stop could result in a search and the discovery of evidence of another offense. If a license check reveals that the offender is serving a sentence of suspension for a drunken-driving conviction, an arrest will surely follow. The legislature also enacted a mandatory jail sentence for anyone convicted of the crime. Therefore, a diversionary program may not be available and a criminal record will have a significant impact on the accused.
Anyone accused of driving under the influence or improper use of a cellphone should be aware of the potentially severe consequences of a conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney can minimize the consequences.