Senator JAMES W. HOLZAPFEL
District 10 (Ocean)
Permits police officer to confiscate cell phones under certain circumstances; increases penalties for texting while driving.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning motor vehicle safety, supplementing chapter 4 of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes, and amending P.L.2003, c.310.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. (New section) Whenever an operator of a motor vehicle has been involved in an accident resulting in death, bodily injury, or property damage, a police officer who reports to the scene of the accident may confiscate the operator’s hand-held wireless telephone if, after considering the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the operator involved in the accident was operating a hand-held wireless telephone while driving a motor vehicle in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3). Upon confiscating the telephone, the police officer may review the hand-held wireless telephone’s call history data in order to determine whether the motor vehicle operator was in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) at the time of the accident. After reviewing the call history data, the law enforcement officer shall return the hand-held wireless telephone to the motor vehicle operator. Any information contained in the call history data that indicates that the motor vehicle operator was in violation of section 1 of P.L.2003, c.310 (C.39:4-97.3) shall be included in the police report in accordance with R.S.39:4-131.
2. 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] subject to a fine of $100. A person who violates this section by sending text messages shall be subject to a fine of $300 and shall be assessed two motor vehicle penalty points pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1982, c.43 (C.39:5-30.5). In addition to the penalty imposed under this subsection, a person who violates this section and as a direct result of that violation is involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in death, bodily injury, or property damage, upon conviction, also shall forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle for three months.
e. No motor vehicle 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)
3. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill allows a law enforcement officer who reports to the scene of a motor vehicle accident to confiscate a driver’s cell phone if, after considering the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver involved in the accident was illegally using a cell phone while driving. Upon confiscating the phone, the police officer may review the phone’s call history data to determine whether the motor vehicle operator committed a violation. Any information indicating a driver was illegally using a cell phone at the time of the accident may be included in the official police report.
In addition, this bill increases the penalty for sending text messages while driving. A person who sends text messages while driving is subject to a $300 fine and is assessed two motor vehicle penalty points under the provisions of the bill. In addition, a person who causes an accident because he or she is sending text messages is subject to a three month license suspension. Under current law, the penalty for driving while illegally using a cell phone is a $100 fine.