Location:
TRAFFIC REGULATIONS; UTILITIES - TELEPHONE;

OLR Research Report


February 22, 2010

 

2010-R-0094

PROCEDURAL OUTCOME OF CELL PHONE USE VIOLATIONS

By: Veronica Rose, Chief Analyst

You asked how many violations of the ban on talking on a cell phone while driving have occurred since the law took effect. OLR Report 2007-R-0260 (attached) shows data and case dispositions for October 2005 through December 2006. This report covers January 2007 through September 2009, the latest date for which data is readily available.

SUMMARY

The law prohibiting most people, while driving, from using mobile electronic devices or talking on hand-held cell phones took effect on October 1, 2005. According to Judicial Branch data, from January 1, 2007 through September 30, 2009, there were 103,294 court cases involving violations of various provisions of this law.  (The data does not distinguish between mobile electronic device and cell phone violations).

Courts found defendants guilty in 66,577 (64.4%) of the 103,294 cases, including 5,757 in which they forfeited bonds, and not guilty in 19 (.02%) cases. The charges were nolled (dismissed) in 34,637 (33.5%) of the remaining cases and the defendants' licenses were suspended in 2,061 cases (2%). (Typically, (1) many of the nolled cases involved first-time violators who have their fines suspended on presenting proof that they acquired a hands-free device and (2) a license is suspended in cases where a defendant fails to appear.)

Attachment 1 provides a detailed breakdown of the dispositions for January 1, 2007 through September 30, 2009.

CONNECTICUT CELL PHONE BAN

Connecticut's “cell phone” law has several prohibitions. The main provision prohibits a person, while driving, from (1) talking or listening on a cell phone, unless he or she uses a hands-free telephone, or (2) using any mobile electronic device. (The ban on cell phone use does not include holding the phone to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function.)

The law defines a “mobile electronic device” as any hand-held or portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more people.  It includes text messaging or paging devices, personal digital assistants, laptop computers, video game equipment, digital video disks, and equipment that takes or transmits digital photographs.  It does not include audio equipment or equipment installed in the vehicle to provide (1) navigation or emergency help to the driver or (2) video entertainment to rear-seat passengers (CGS 14-296aa(b)).

The law also prohibits:

1. with exceptions, a school bus driver from using either a cell phone or any other mobile electronic device in a moving school bus containing passengers (CGS 14-296aa(c)) and

2. with exceptions, drivers under age 18 from using any cell phone while the vehicle is moving, whether or not it has a hands-free accessory (CGS 14-296aa(d)).

Exceptions

A driver who is at least age 18 may use a hand-held mobile telephone regardless of the prohibition (1) for the sole purpose of communicating an emergency situation to an emergency response operator, hospital, physician's office or health clinic, ambulance company, or fire or police department; (2) if he or she is a peace officer, firefighter, or ambulance or authorized emergency vehicle driver performing official duties within the scope of employment; or (3) if the telephone is hands-free. An authorized emergency vehicle includes a fire department or police vehicle or public service company or municipal department ambulance or emergency vehicle designated or authorized for use by the motor vehicle commissioner as an emergency vehicle.

The exceptions for reporting an emergency situation also apply to school bus drivers. They may also use a hand-held mobile telephone or other electronic device to alert school officials of emergencies without violating the prohibition.

Violations

A violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $100. But the fine for a first-time violator, other than a school bus driver or a driver under age 18, must be suspended if the person presents proof of having acquired a hands-free accessory for the phone before the fine is imposed (CGS 14-296aa(g) & (h)). The law also imposes a $100 fine whenever a driver commits a moving violation while engaged in any non-driving related activity, including cell phone use, that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle. The $100 fine is in addition to any fine or penalty imposed for the moving violation ((CGS 14-296aa(g) & (i)).

The law allows violators to mail fines to the Centralized Infractions Bureau instead of appearing in court.

VR:ts/sd

ATTACHMENT 1: PROCEDURAL OUTCOME OF CELL PHONE VIOLATIONS, JANUARY 1, 2007 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2009

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2007

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

367

4203

1

2615

155

7341

$428,416

14-296aa(c)

1

12

0

3

1

17

$1,120

14-296aa(d)

0

8

0

4

0

12

$800

14-296aa(i)

3

21

0

26

5

55

$2,200

PA 05-220(2)***

7

37

0

98

15

157

$3,965

Total

378

4281

1

2746

176

7582

$436,501

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

April 1, 2007 to June 30, 2007

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

519

4528

3

2974

221

8245

$464,007

14-296aa(c)

0

17

0

10

0

27

$1,700

14-296aa(d)

0

8

0

3

0

11

$800

14-296aa(i)

4

26

0

28

2

60

$2,582

PA 05-220(2)

1

30

0

50

11

92

$3,120

Total

524

4609

3

3065

234

8435

$472,209

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

July 1, 2007 to September 30, 2007

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

417

5239

3

2691

189

8539

$529,165

14-296aa(c)

4

4

0

9

0

17

$620

14-296aa(d)

2

5

0

5

0

12

$505

14-296aa(i)

1

26

0

15

5

47

$2,650

PA 05-220(2)

6

15

0

41

6

68

$1,820

Total

430

5289

3

2761

200

8683

$534,760

-Continued-

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

October 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

439

5205

1

2832

152

8629

$524,652

14-296aa(c)

2

10

0

6

1

19

$975

14-296aa(d)

1

11

0

1

0

13

$1,100

14-296aa(i)

4

34

0

20

5

63

$3,775

PA 05-220(2)

2

12

0

24

3

41

$1,250

Total

448

5272

1

2883

161

8765

$531,752

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

January 1, 2008 to March 31, 2008

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

414

5788

0

3043

153

9398

$580,620

14-296aa(c)

0

13

0

7

1

21

$1,400

14-296aa(d)

1

3

0

3

0

7

$300

14-296aa(i)

6

36

0

22

3

67

$3,480

PA 05-220(2)

0

15

0

18

1

34

$1,500

Total

421

5855

0

3093

158

9527

$587,300

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

April 1, 2008 to June 30, 2008

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

476

6054

2

3475

197

10204

$622,714

14-296aa(c)

2

6

0

1

0

9

$810

14-296aa(d)

0

4

0

1

0

5

$400

14-296aa(i)

6

35

1

41

4

87

$3,780

PA 05-220(2)

0

13

0

15

3

31

$1,300

Total

484

6112

3

3533

204

10336

$629,004

-Continued-

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

535

6818

2

3502

167

11024

$688,918

14-296aa(c)

1

19

0

1

1

22

$1,935

14-296aa(d)

0

5

0

3

0

8

$500

14-296aa(i)

6

50

0

31

0

87

$5,085

PA 05-220(2)

1

8

0

16

2

27

$1,000

Total

543

6900

2

3553

170

11168

$697,438

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

October 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

674

5574

2

3358

198

9806

$573,758

14-296aa(c)

0

12

0

4

1

17

$1,125

14-296aa(d)

1

6

0

2

0

9

$585

14-296aa(i)

13

32

0

36

3

84

$3,805

PA 05-220(2)

0

5

0

9

1

15

$100

Total

688

5629

2

3409

203

9931

$579,373

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2009

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

567

4371

2

3089

159

8188

$448,727

14-296aa(c)

0

12

0

5

0

17

$1,200

14-296aa(d)

0

9

0

2

0

11

$900

14-296aa(i)

12

50

0

35

6

103

$4,905

PA 05-220(2)

0

5

0

6

2

13

$500

Total

579

4447

2

3137

167

8332

$456,232

-Continued-

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

April 1, 2009 to June 30, 2009

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

529

5093

2

2843

172

8639

$512,643

14-296aa(c)

2

9

0

7

0

18

$955

14-296aa(d)

0

6

0

2

0

8

$600

14-296aa(i)

8

39

0

4

37

88

$3,896

PA 05-220(2)

2

3

0

3

0

8

$360

Total

541

5150

2

2859

209

8761

$518,454

Procedural Outcome of Cell Phone Violations

July 1, 2009 to September 30, 2009

Statute

Bond

Forfeiture*

Guilty

Not

Guilty

Nolle

Suspension**

Total

Revenue

14-296aa(b)

678

7234

0

3533

175

11620

$726,508

14-296aa(c)

3

14

0

10

0

27

$1,540

14-296aa(d)

0

5

0

2

0

7

$500

14-296aa(i)

9

52

0

48

3

112

$5,131

PA 05-220(2)

1

1

0

5

1

8

$175

Total

691

7306

0

3598

179

11774

$733,854

Source: Connecticut Judicial Branch

The following explanations were provided by the Judicial Branch:

* “[B]ond forfeiture refers to bond taken in lieu of fine. . . . [A]pparently, out-of state drivers often cannot pay a motor vehicle fine by mail, so they post bond by mail – equal to the fine – then forfeit it when the case is closed out.  For all intents and purposes, it's the same as an in-state driver paying a fine by mail.

**Typically, a license is suspended when a defendant fails to appear in court on the scheduled date.

***Violations listed for PA 05-220(2) refer to instances in which the defendants were charged before the public act was codified. The reason that this would still show up in 2006-2009 data is probably because someone failed to appear, tries to buy a new car (for instance), only to find that his or her license is suspended.  The case is then re-opened with a new disposition.