NY "Cell Phone Law" Passes First Test

Discussion in 'Use of the Law Forum & News' started by Legal Information, Jan 18, 2002.

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  1. Legal Information

    Legal Information Law Topic Starter New Member

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    It appears that the constitutionality of New York State's law prohibiting the use of wireless phones while driving a motor vehicle has survived its first test. In the case of People v. Victoria Neville, the defendant was charged with violating New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1225-C, use of a mobile telephone while operating a motor vehicle.

    As a general rule, there is a presumption of the validity (and constitutionality) of statutes enacted by state legislature. This presumption may be overcome when it is shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the law is invalid. In this case, there were three questions to be answered regarding the law's validity and those are:

    (1) Is the law unduly vague or overbroad? (Either the law is not specific enough to be understood or that it is so broad that it restricts substantially more than is necessary.)

    (2) Does the law overreach its boundaries and authority and violate the right to privacy?

    (3) Does the law violate the constitutional right of Equal Protection? (The right of each citizen to have the equal protection of the law.)

    The statute was held not to be unduly vague as people of ordinary intelligence can understand the law as written. The statute was found not to be overbroad since it includes a "carve out" to permit the use of mobile phones when used in a "hands-free" manner.

    With regard to the question of overreaching and violation of a citizen's right of privacy, the court found that the State had a valid interest in protecting its citizens in the same manner as the seat belt law. The State can enact laws, pursuant to the "police power" under the US Constitution, to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. The hands-free exception provides a reasonable amount of leeway and does not unduly restrict an operator of a motor vehicle that extends beyond the power granted to the State.

    The challenge of equal protection and due process was made since there are exceptions to the general rule, which include such individuals operating, e.g. an ambulance. As the purpose of these exceptions bears a reasonable relation to the purpose of the Cell Phone law's enactment, the law does not need to pass the more stringent "strict scrutiny" test that may be required when constitutionality is challenged. Additionally, this law does not discriminate by race, religion, sex, or national origin.

    New York State's "Cell Phone Law" appears below.


    Section 1225-c. Use of mobile telephones.

    1. For purposes of this section, the following terms shall mean:

    (a) "Mobile telephone" shall mean the device used by subscribers and other users of wireless telephone service to access such service.
    (b) "Wireless telephone service" shall mean two-way real time voice telecommunications service that is interconnected to a public switched telephone network and is provided by a commercial mobile radio service, as such term is defined by 47 C.F.R. S 20.3.
    (c) "Using" shall mean holding a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user's ear.
    (d) "Hand-held mobile telephone" shall mean a mobile telephone with which a user engages in a call using at least one hand.
    (e) "Hands-free mobile telephone" shall mean 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 call without the use of either hand, whether or not the use of either hand is necessary to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone.
    (f) "Engage in a call" shall mean talking into or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone, but shall not include holding a mobile telephone to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone.
    (g) "Immediate proximity" shall mean that distance as permits the operator of a mobile telephone to hear telecommunications transmitted over such mobile telephone, but shall not require physical contact with such operator's ear.

    2. (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a mobile telephone to engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion. (b) An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of his or her ear while such vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaging in a call within the meaning of this section. The presumption established by this subdivision is rebuttable by evidence tending to show that the operator was not engaged in a call. (c) The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a mobile telephone, unless otherwise provided by law.

    3. Subdivision two of this section shall not apply to (a) the use of a mobile telephone for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: an emergency response operator; a hospital, physician's office or health clinic; an ambulance company or corps; a fire department, district or company; or a police department, (b) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties: a police officer or peace officer; a member of a fire department, district or company; or the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in section one hundred one of this chapter, or (c) the use of a hands-free mobile telephone.

    4. A violation of subdivision two of this section shall be a traffic infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.
     
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