Today millions of people drive while using their cellphones – whether texting, calling or scrolling through emails. Although using your cellphone while driving is common, it is against the law, and you can be pulled over and charged with use of a cellphone while driving. This is often referred to as distracted driving.
If you have been charged with use of a cellphone while driving or distracted driving in Connecticut, it is important to know how this violation can affect you and what your options are if you get charged with this motor vehicle offense.
What is the Law?
Using a cellphone while driving is an infraction in Connecticut. Under C.G.S. § 14-296aa, any use of a hand-held phone or electronic device while driving is punishable by a fine. For a first offense, you face a $150 fine, for a second offense a $300 fine, and for a third offense a $500 fine.
The use of hands-free technology to send a message or make a phone call is permissible; however, drivers under the age of 18 cannot use hands-free technology for any reason. Drivers under the age of 18 face additional penalties if they use a cellphone or other mobile electronic device, including hands-free technology.
If you are under the age of 18 and are charged with use of a cellphone while driving, you face:
- License suspension of 30 days for your first violation
- License suspension of 90 days for your second violation
- License suspension of 6 months for your third violation
- $175 license restoration fee to the DMV
You can be pulled over and given a ticket for use of a cellphone for simply holding a cellphone in your hand while driving. A police officer may give you a ticket for holding a cellphone in your hand even if you were not actually using your cellphone at that time. If this happens to you, do not argue with the officer. Take the ticket and before you decide whether to mail it in and pay the fine, contact an attorney to discuss what happened when you were pulled over so you can decide how to proceed.
What does Use of a Cellphone Violation mean for me?
Besides facing hundreds of dollars in fines, being charged with using a cellphone while driving can have other serious consequences. Under Connecticut’s distracted driving laws, any form of distracted driving is considered a “moving violation” and will remain on your driving record for at least three years. Even if this is the first time you have been charged with using a cellphone or distracted driving, if you plead guilty to this offense (either by mailing in the ticket with payment of the fine or by payment of the fine to the Clerk’s office at the Court) notice of your conviction will get sent to the DMV will count as a moving violation.
If you get three or more moving violations within a three-year period, you face mandatory driver retraining and/or the loss of your license for a period of time. Additionally, if you are charged with any motor vehicle offense, the prosecutor will know about your prior offense which may make it more difficult to resolve any other ticket you get during that following three-year period.
If you plead guilty to use of a cellphone or a distracted driving charge, your insurance carrier will be able to find out by looking at your driving record. If you are a new driver or in a “high risk pool,” you may face increased insurance premiums, and there is a risk that your insurance carrier will refuse to continue to provide coverage for your or your family.
Should I plead guilty?
While it is often not recommended to plead guilty to these types of charges, the answer to this question depends on each individual’s situation. Many people who get a cellphone ticket decide to pay their ticket through the mail because they do not want to have to go to Court. Before you do this, you should make sure you understand the potential negative consequences if you plead guilty to a cellphone violation.
If I plead not guilty, will I have to appear in Court?
Sometimes. If you decide to plead not guilty and fight the ticket yourself, the Centralized Infractions Bureau will send you notification of your court date by mail. You will have to go to Court on the date and time assigned to you. If you hire an attorney, your attorney can often go to Court on your behalf and you will not have to appear.
Should I hire an Attorney?
While hiring an attorney does not guarantee that you will get a favorable result or that your cellphone ticket will get dismissed, it is a good idea to consult with counsel. Ultimately, it may be in your best interest to hire an experienced attorney who can help you fight your cellphone violation charge. Sometimes, a cellphone ticket can be reduced to a different infraction, one that the DMV considers a “non-moving violation.” A non-moving violation will not affect your insurance or put you at risk of having your driver’s license suspended.
In many situations, your attorney can help you get your cellphone ticket dropped or dismissed. For example, if you simply had your cellphone in your hand when you were pulled over but were not using it, your attorney can discuss this with the prosecutor and your case may get dismissed. Often, there are other circumstances about your case that your attorney can discuss with the prosecutor that will help you to get a favorable outcome.
An experienced attorney can help you understand your options and help you resolve your cellphone violation ticket. The attorneys at Koffsky & Felsen, LLC handle motor vehicle violations like distracted driving every day and we work closely with our clients to ensure the best results. If you have been issued a motor vehicle ticket for use of a cellphone or distracted driving, or need assistance with any motor vehicle charges, contact us at Koffsky & Felsen, LLC at 203-327-1500.