How to fight a cell phone ticket in New Jersey — and win! (2024)

🚨 There are exemptions to New Jersey's law on cell phone use

🚨 You may be able to fight a ticket in court

🚨 The minimum fine for a first offense is $200

A cop catches you on the phone — in hand — while driving.

There's likely not much you can say or do at this point. But fighting a traffic ticket for improper use of a phone while driving is not impossible. You just have to hope a judge will trust that the cop caught you during the split second you were answering or ending a call.

"The defense is very limited," Leon Matchin, a criminal, DUI, and traffic law attorney in Milltown, tells New Jersey 101.5.

Is using a cell phone behind the wheel ever acceptable? (luna4, ThinkStock)

What is New Jersey's law on using a phone while driving?

Although it's still discouraged, you are permitted to use a hands-free device while behind the wheel, as long as it doesn't interfere with any safety equipment in the vehicle.

But having your hand on the phone for a call or text is not legal, and officers in New Jersey have been able to pull over drivers for close to 15 years now for this reason.

In 2022 alone, municipal police departments across New Jersey issued more than 27,000 tickets for cell phone use behind the wheel, according to the New Jersey Judiciary. The count topped 53,000 in both 2018 and 2019.

Dennis Malloy, Townsquare Media NJ

Are there exceptions to New Jersey's cell phone law?

Drivers in New Jersey can have their phones in hand in certain emergency situations.

Specifically, phone use is permitted when the driver has reason to fear for their life or safety, or the driver is reporting a fire, hazard, accident, or reckless driver to authorities.

In cases like these, the matter likely would never reach a courtroom. Ideally, you'd tell the cop about the emergency when you're pulled over, and a ticket for phone use wouldn't be issued.

The statute also expressly permits drivers to have one hand on their phone to "activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the phone."

"That's basically defined by case law as answering the phone, ending the phone call, or dialing a phone number," Matchin said.

Can I get out of a cell phone ticket in New Jersey?

Matchin said the "activate/deactivate" language is what's typically used in court to attempt to get drivers out of a ticket. It's the prosecution's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one was using a phone improperly behind the wheel — so maybe the driver was spotted while just dialing a number.

If that argument is put forth and the ticket isn't thrown away, it may at least be shifted to a lesser offense.


What's the penalty for driving while on the phone?

A first offense in New Jersey carries a fine of $200 to $400.

The minimum fine is $400 and the maximum fine is $600 for a second offense.

Any subsequent offenses are met with a fine of up to $800, three points on your license, and the possibility of losing your license for 90 days.

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Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.

How to fight a cell phone ticket in New Jersey — and win! (2024)


What to say to get out of a cell phone ticket? ›

You can also raise these other defenses:
  1. You weren't moving. You can argue you were actually parked when you were using your cell phone.
  2. Your passenger used the phone. The officer might have seen someone using the phone, but it wasn't you.
  3. You were using speakerphone. ...
  4. You used a hands-free phone.

Can you fight a cell phone ticket in NJ? ›

As with most laws, there are some exceptions, and it is possible to successfully fight your cell phone ticket. The best course of action is to contact a lawyer familiar with cell phone violations in NJ, like Leon Matchin. He can take a look at your case and develop a defense to hopefully have your ticket dropped.

How to prove you were not on your phone? ›

Gather evidence for trial.
  1. For example, if there was someone with you in the car, you may want them to testify that you weren't on the phone, or weren't texting, when the officer pulled you over.
  2. Phone records can be used as evidence. ...
  3. Sometimes the ticket itself can be your strongest piece of evidence.
Apr 23, 2024

How do you beat a cell phone ticket in NY? ›

Tips for Fighting Cell Phone Tickets

Use a dash cam, as it can prove your vehicle was halted at the point of violation. Provide proof you weren't on your phone at the point of violation; this can be done via phone records.

Does VC 23123.5 go on your record? ›

A violation of either VC 23123 or VC 23123.5 will not result in points assessed on your DMV driving record. Please note that this is a good thing since points for traffic violations typically result in an increase in your insurance rates for several years.

How many points is a cell phone ticket in NJ? ›

3 Points

Does cell phone ticket affect insurance in NJ? ›

If this puts you over your 12-point limit, the NJ MVC will suspend your license. In addition to the punishments handed down by the court, your insurance company may also increase your insurance premiums once they learn you received a cell phone ticket.

How do I fight a ticket in NJ? ›

If you want to plead not guilty to the violation, check the box. After indicating you want to plead not guilty, you should complete a Plea by Mail form and upload it on Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS). You can go to the municipal court on your scheduled date to have your case heard by a judge.

How do cops prove you were texting? ›

Using your Phone Records

This includes obtaining your phone records to see if you were receiving or sending texts at the time of an accident. These records can be paired with traffic cameras that caught the driver in the act of texting.

How can a cop prove I was on my phone? ›

For the state to prove that you were illegally using your phone, they will typically require eyewitness testimony from the officer making the stop, an admission from the driver, evidence from the phone itself, or public information from social media sites.

How do I not get caught with my phone? ›

Hide your cell phone somewhere.

Fully charge your phone, shut down or switch to silent mode, then put it in a place where your parents won't spot it. If your cell phone is kept by your parents, better get it after they go to bed.

What is ticket strategy? ›

By understanding your target audience, offering a variety of ticket types, encouraging early bird purchasing, upselling your guests, and making it fun and personal, you're sure to see an increase in ticket sales and make your event a hit.

What is the best defense for a speeding ticket? ›

Common defenses that could help you fight the charges include:
  • Necessity. If you had to speed to avoid a serious accident, you may be able to argue that you had no choice but to speed. ...
  • No posted speed limit. ...
  • Not speeding. ...
  • Radar gun inaccuracy. ...
  • Speedometer calibration. ...
  • GPS. ...
  • Not the person driving.

How do you ensure tickets are legit? ›

Ask the seller for proof that they bought the tickets, if you are buying from an individual. Use a credit card to pay third party sellers. Your credit card offers protections, if you need to dispute a charge. Check for complaints against a ticket seller with your state's consumer protection agency.

How long does a cell phone ticket stay on your record in California? ›

Luckily, for a cell phone ticket alone, you won't receive any points on your license. However, if you receive a cell phone ticket within 36 months of a prior cell phone ticket, or any other distracted driving violation, you will receive one point on your license. The point will remain on your record for 36 months.

How much is a first time cell phone ticket in CA? ›

Fines and Points for Cell Phone Tickets

The base fine for a first cell phone violation is $20. For second and subsequent offenses, the fine is $50. But remember—the actual amount you'll pay once assessments are added will be significantly more than the base fine.

How to beat a cell phone ticket in Illinois? ›

If you believe you were wrongfully issued a ticket, an experienced attorney can help you fight to reduce or dismiss the charges against you. In some cases, you can request court supervision, but the court must approve it and you must qualify for it, which may include completing an online traffic safety class.

Can I go to traffic school for a cell phone ticket in California? ›

Cell phone tickets are non-moving violations and do not carry a point count, so traffic school is not required. However, you must pay the fine and the citation will still be on your DMV record but will have a zero point count whether you take traffic school or not.


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