Cellphone decision doesn’t water down ban
A judge’s ruling that drivers shouldn’t be ticketed for briefly handling their cellphones is a fair decision, says Toronto criminal lawyer Theo Sarantis. Read Toronto Star Story
“The judge accepted the findings of fact made by the Justice of the Peace that what the accused person did was move her cellphone from the floor of her car (where it had fallen) to the passenger seat while she was stopped at a red light and she felt it was safe to do so,” says Sarantis, an associate with Hicks Adams LLP.
“What the judge finds is that such a fleeting handling does not amount to ‘holding’ as used in the legislation, given that the purpose of including ‘holding’ in the legislation would prohibit actually grasping and controlling the device, usually with a view towards using it in some fashion,” says Sarantis.
“That interpretation makes sense given the aim of the legislation is to promote distraction-free driving, which even holding a phone could contribute to (as the judge found when it interferes with physical dexterity when driving and when there is a temptation to look at your phone to see if any messages have come in).
“Merely handling a phone briefly, such as to move it, should not be captured as conduct that the legislation seeks to prohibit,” he notes.
“I don’t think this is something that waters down the ban, but rather explains it in the context of the spirit of the legislation,” says Sarantis. “The judgment does not say holding a phone while driving would never be an offence. It says that in situations where it is accepted that the holding or handling of a phone was brief and unrelated to the use of the phone as a communication/entertainment device, that was not envisioned as the kind of conduct Parliament sought to prohibit.”
Sarantis says that, “Given the prevalence of cell phones in society and vehicles, I would imagine there will be further challenges to the interpretation of the legislation, which obviously will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The result in this particular instance seems to me a correct interpretation of the legislation and the harm it was enacted to prevent.”