Defending Against a Cell Phone Ticket in Connecticut

Whenever you are charged with a cellphone violation in Connecticut, you have a right to defend yourself. The law on cellphones is very clear – you can’t be holding the phone to your ear and be talking on the phone while driving. But what about initiating the call? Turning on the speakerphone? Or ending the call? All of those are LEGAL! The police need to prove that you were actively involved in talking on the phone when they saw you, and that is sometimes hard to do. In order to defend yourself, you should hire a cellphone defense lawyer in Connecticut, but sometimes people prefer to try to defend them by themselves! If so, use these two sample examinations when crossing the police officer and testifying yourself.

The entire packet of information including the cross exam, a direct exam and the law on cellphones and driving is here:

Cross of Arresting Officer

  • So that day you were on patrol
  • General patrol
  • And you need to be observant
  • Observing everything around you
  • Because as an officer you never know what you will see
  • And at some point you saw a car
  • A car being operated by my client
  • But you didn’t know who was operating it at the time
  • Just that it was being driven
  • Didn’t even know it was a man or a woman
  • Because you were behind it
  • Couldn’t see if the driver’s side window was up
  • Or down
  • You saw a head from behind in the driver’s seat
  • And that head was facing the same direction that your head was facing
  • So you couldn’t see the face
  • Couldn’t see if she was talking
  • Certainly couldn’t hear if she was talking
  • Couldn’t tell if she was singing along with the radio
  • And the car she was driving was a ___________________
  • And that is a big car
  • That car has a front seat
  • And a back seat
  • And trunk space
  • And you were driving a safe distance away from it
  • You weren’t tailgating the car
  • You were behind it
  • So its fair to say you were able to observe a driver from behind but not who it was at that time
  • Because of your vantage point
  • And at some point in time you believe you saw the driver bring a hand to the side of her head
  • Left side or right side
  • Left hand or right hand
  • And at that point you had a suspicion about the hand
  • And you believe it held a phone at the time
  • So you initialed a traffic stop
  • That she had slowed to make
  • And there was no evasive action taken by the driver
  • You didn’t charge the driver with trying to elude you
  • The driver stopped the car
  • You saw the rear lights of the car as you were stopped behind it
  • You watched the lights cycle from red to white to red again
  • Indicating that the car was being placed into park
  • And that is something you are trained to look for
  • Because people have tried to avoid an officer by waiting for them to get out of the car and then drive off
  • And that didn’t happen here
  • And you approached the vehicle
  • On the driver’s side
  • And at that time identified it was a woman driving
  • And she engaged you in a conversation
  • Told you that she had been on the phone
  • But the phone was using the speakerphone function
  • And she had not been holding it near her ear to make a call.

Direct of the Client (Defendant)

  • You were given a ticket
  • You remember that day
  • Where were you
  • What were you doing
  • What were you expecting a call
  • Is that normal for you
  • On that day, where did you keep your phone in the car
  • Did your phone have a speakerphone function
  • Had you used it before
  • Had you used it that day
  • How do you enable it – what do you have to do
  • So that day you were talking on your phone in your car while driving
  • But it was by way of the speakerphone
  • You were driving down the road
  • Where were you going
  • Did you notice a police officer behind your car
  • What did you do turned into driveway of library
  • Did you have to slow to do that – where is the phone
  • Did you have to accelerate after your car made the turn
  • At this point where is the phone
  • So grabbing the phone was to secure it from flying around the car
  • And then you had it in your hand
  • What were you doing then? Coming to a stop
  • And you were concluding the call to interact with the officer
  • And the phone needed to be in your hand to do that
  • and did you say anything to the officer that day

Cellphone Laws in Connecticut:  For the purposes of this defense – focus on the sections in RED

Sec. 14-296aa. Use of hand-held mobile telephones and mobile electronic devices by motor vehicle operators and school bus drivers prohibited or restricted. Exceptions. Penalties. Amounts remitted to municipality. (a) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:

(1) “Mobile telephone” means a cellular, analog, wireless or digital telephone capable of sending or receiving telephone communications without an access line for service.

(2) “Using” or “use” means holding a hand-held mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user’s ear.

(3) “Hand-held mobile telephone” means a mobile telephone with which a user engages in a call using at least one hand.

      (4) “Hands-free accessory” means an attachment, add-on, built-in feature, or addition to a mobile telephone, whether or not permanently installed in a motor vehicle, that, when used, allows the vehicle operator to maintain both hands on the steering wheel.

(5) “Hands-free mobile telephone” means a hand-held 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 hand-held 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.

      (6) “Engage in a call” means talking into or listening on a hand-held mobile telephone, but does not include holding a hand-held mobile telephone to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone.

(7) “Immediate proximity” means the distance that permits the operator of a hand-held mobile telephone to hear telecommunications transmitted over such hand-held mobile telephone, but does not require physical contact with such operator’s ear.

(8) “Mobile electronic device” means any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more persons, including a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, equipment that is capable of playing a video game or a digital video disk, or equipment on which digital photographs are taken or transmitted, or any combination thereof, but does not include any audio equipment or any equipment installed in a motor vehicle for the purpose of providing navigation, emergency assistance to the operator of such motor vehicle or video entertainment to the passengers in the rear seats of such motor vehicle.

(b) (1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and subsections (c) and (d) of this section, no person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a highway, as defined in section 14-1, while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call or while using a mobile electronic device while such vehicle is in motion. An operator of a motor vehicle who types, sends or reads a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while such vehicle is in motion shall be in violation of this section, except that if such operator is driving a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, such operator shall be charged with a violation of subsection (e) of this section.

      (2) An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a hand-held 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.

(3) The provisions of this subsection shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of a hand-held mobile telephone or a mobile electronic device, unless otherwise provided by law.

(4) Subdivision (1) of this subsection shall not apply to: (A) The use of a hand-held 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; a fire department; or a police department, or (B) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties and within the scope of their employment: A peace officer, as defined in subdivision (9) of section 53a-3, a firefighter or an operator of an ambulance or authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, or a member of the armed forces of the United States, as defined in section 27-103, while operating a military vehicle, or (C) the use of a hands-free mobile telephone.

(c) No person shall use a hand-held mobile telephone or other electronic device, including those with hands-free accessories, or a mobile electronic device while operating a moving school bus that is carrying passengers, except that this subsection shall not apply to (1) a school bus driver who places an emergency call to school officials, or (2) the use of a hand-held mobile telephone as provided in subparagraph (A) of subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of this section.

(d) No person under eighteen years of age shall use any hand-held mobile telephone, including one with a hands-free accessory, or a mobile electronic device while operating a moving motor vehicle on a public highway, except as provided in subparagraph (A) of subdivision (4) of subsection (b) of this section.

(e) No person shall type, read or send text or a text message with or from a mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while operating a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in section 14-1, except for the 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; a fire department or a police department.

(f) Except as provided in subsections (b) to (e), inclusive, of this section, no person shall engage in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such vehicle on any highway, as defined in section 14-1.

(g) Any law enforcement officer who issues a summons for a violation of this section shall record on such summons the specific nature of any distracted driving behavior observed by such officer.

(h) Any person who violates this section shall be fined one hundred twenty-five dollars for a first violation, two hundred fifty dollars for a second violation and four hundred dollars for a third or subsequent violation.

(i) An operator of a motor vehicle who commits a moving violation, as defined in subsection (a) of section 14-111g, while engaged in any activity prohibited by this section shall be fined in accordance with subsection (h) of this section, in addition to any penalty or fine imposed for the moving violation.

(j) The state shall remit to a municipality twenty-five per cent of the amount received with respect to each summons issued by such municipality for a violation of this section. Each clerk of the Superior Court or the Chief Court Administrator, or any other official of the Superior Court designated by the Chief Court Administrator, shall, on or before the thirtieth day of January, April, July and October in each year, certify to the Comptroller the amount due for the previous quarter under this subsection to each municipality served by the office of the clerk or official.

(P.A. 05-159, S. 1-7; 05-220, S. 2, 3; P.A. 06-196, S. 284; P.A. 09-54, S. 1; P.A. 10-32, S. 51, 52; 10-109, S. 1; P.A. 11-213, S. 53.)

History: P.A. 05-220 amended Subsec. (a) to make definitions applicable to Subsecs. (c) and (d) and add new Subdiv. (8) defining “mobile electronic device”, amended Subsec. (b) to add references to a mobile electronic device in Subdivs. (1) and (3) and delete exemption for “the operator of a taxi cab, tow truck or bus without passengers” in Subdiv. (4)(B) and amended Subsec. (c) to make prohibition applicable to the use of a mobile electronic device and make a technical change and amended Subsec. (d) to apply prohibition to a person under 18 years of age rather than to a person who holds a learner’s permit or any holder of a motor vehicle license subject to the requirements of Sec. 14-36(d) and make prohibition applicable to the use of a mobile electronic device; P.A. 06-196 made technical changes, effective June 7, 2006; P.A. 09-54 amended Subsec. (b)(4) to add members of the armed forces, effective May 21, 2009; P.A. 10-32 made technical changes in Subsecs. (b) and (e), effective May 10, 2010; P.A. 10-109 amended Subsec. (b)(1) to establish violation re operator of vehicle in motion who types, sends or reads text message with hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device, made technical changes in Subsecs. (b) and (e), amended Subsec. (g) to replace fine of not more than $100 and provision suspending fine for first-time violator who acquires hands-free accessory with fine of $100 for first violation, $150 for second violation and $200 for third or subsequent violation, and added Subsec. (j) to require state to remit to municipalities 25% of amount received by state for each summons issued by such municipality; P.A. 11-213 amended Subsec. (b)(1) to add provision re operator driving commercial motor vehicle to be charged with violation of Subsec. (e), added new Subsec. (e) to prohibit texting while operating commercial motor vehicle, except for emergency situations, redesignated existing Subsecs. (e) to (g) as Subsecs. (f) to (h), deleted former Subsec. (h) re $100 fine for violation of Subsec. (c) or (d), amended redesignated Subsec. (h) to increase fines for violations from $100, $150 and $200 to $125, $250 and $400, respectively, and made conforming and technical changes, effective July 13, 2011.