Female driver using a cell phoneMajor Changes to New Jersey’s Cell Phone Law

Effective July 1, 2014, New Jersey significantly increased the penalties for operating a vehicle while using a cell phone.  The penalties, as contained in N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3, are as follows:

A person who violates this section shall be fined as follows:

  1. for a first offense, not less than $ 200 or more than $ 400;
  2. for a second offense, not less than $ 400 or more than $ 600;
  3. and
    for a third or subsequent offense, not less than $ 600 or more than $ 800.

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 (C.39:5-30.5).

A person who has been convicted of a previous violation of this section need not be charged as a second or 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.

In short, the monetary penalties have increased significantly over the old law and increase on a sliding upward scale on each subsequent offense.  In addition, in the discretion of the court a third or subsequent offender is subject to a potential loss of driving privileges for a period of 90 days.  The loss of driving privileges was not contained in the old cell phone law.