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How Often Do Tickets for Hands-Free Law Violators Get Dismissed in Minnesota?

male-hand-touching-cellphone-in-carFrom August 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019, Minnesota law enforcement officers issued more than 9,700 tickets for violating the hands-free cellphone law.

Less than two percent (178) of the cited drivers were able to get their tickets dismissed when they took them to court, according to court records reviewed by the Minnesota Star Tribune. More than 75 percent of drivers who received citations saw their tickets and fines upheld.

Most of the other citations that do not fit into either category are either still processing or continued for dismissal, which means the charges could be dropped after a certain amount of time, provided the driver does not have any further violations.

The hands-free cellphone law specifically makes it harder for drivers to fight tickets in court.

What Does the New Law Say?

Under the new law, drivers in the state of Minnesota are only allowed to touch their cellphones one time or use voice-activated commands when attempting to make calls, send text messages via voice, get directions or listen to music while driving. Touching the phone multiple times to do any of these things is against the law.

Drivers are not allowed to hold a phone in their hand unless it is an emergency or life-threatening situation. Some other phone related activities that are prohibited under the new law are: video chatting, live-streaming video, looking at videos or photos, Snapchat, gaming, reading text messages, typing, scrolling and using non-navigation apps.

Exceptions to the Rule

Using a GPS is allowable, if the device can only be used for this purpose. In-car screens can also be used; however, these systems are usually programmed to lock when the car is in motion.

Although law enforcement agencies have been implementing a more hands-free approach to cellphone usage, any person performing official duties in an authorized emergency vehicle can legally hold a phone. 

The law treats smart watches as communication devices, so they fall under the same restrictions as cellphones. A driver can look at his or her watch to check the time, however, one-touch or voice activation must be used for any other activities.  

Breaking Down the Numbers on Hands-Free Law Violations

Of the 9,700 cellphone violations, there were over 2,100 drivers who were cited for playing games, watching videos or using other apps. Over 3,000 drivers were caught reading or writing an electronic message and most of the rest of the offenders were holding a cellphone while talking, video chatting or dialing a phone number.

Most offenders were between the ages of 30 and 49 with a total of 4,394 citations. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 29 comprised the second largest group with a total of 3,414 violations. Most of the rest of the citations were given to drivers between the ages of 50 and 75.

In all three age groups, men outnumbered women in the total number of violations. In the 30 to 49 age group, 54 percent of the violators were male. In the second largest group (ages 16-29), 55 percent of the offenders were male.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatalities caused by traffic accidents have decreased by an average of 15 percent in 12 of the 15 states that have implemented hands-free statutes.        

What are the Penalties?

The first offense comes with a $120 fine, and the fine jumps to $300 for each subsequent offense. This includes court fees.

Law enforcement officials must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver disobeyed the law, however, it is much easier to prove because of the clarity of the law and how it explains what is allowed and what is prohibited. Police can also use dashcam video footage as evidence to prove that you were holding your cellphone while driving.

Ways to Go Hands-Free

There are several ways to avoid getting ticketed for using your cellphone, however, some are more expensive than others:

  • Turn off your phone, turn-on the do not disturb feature or put it in the glove compartment.
  • If you need to be on the phone while driving, you can try pairing your phone with your vehicle so you can go hands-free. If your car does not have this feature, you may need to connect your phone to an auxiliary wire to use the vehicle’s audio system to talk on the phone. Older vehicles with a cassette player can connect to your phone with an adapter that fits into the cassette player.
  • You can also purchase a clip to attach your phone to the dashboard and use it in voice-activated mode. Make sure the phone is securely attached to prevent it dropping or falling onto the floor.
  • Another option is to purchase a blue-tooth speaker or earphone and pair it with your phone.

Contact a Licensed Lawyer for Legal Assistance

If you or someone you know was injured in a car accident that was caused by a distracted driver, we recommend contacting a licensed attorney. Compensation may be available for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any property damage.

The Minneapolis car accident lawyers at TSR Injury Law are prepared to hear the details of your accident in a complimentary consultation. There are no upfront or hidden fees and you are not obligated to have us represent your claim.

Our phone lines are open 24/7 to take your call. Phone: (612) TSR-TIME.

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