The ongoing debate between privacy and safety heated up considerably after 9/11. The beginning of the smartphone era in 2007 took things up a notch. No one can deny that device distraction is a serious problem. However, the Supreme Court has consistently limited police power in favor of smartphone privacy. Tennessee’s broad hands free law pushes the limits of this debate.
One must wonder what the next stage in this debate might be. It could be the smartphones which manufacturers now embed in the dashboard of passenger cars and trucks. Conventional wisdom is that hands-free phones are relatively safe. But according to one study, using such a gadget is as bad as driving while intoxicated. As screens get bigger and functions multiply, eventually the privacy vs. safety debate could rear its ugly head in this area as well.
Back to the current hands-free law. In most states, a cell phone ticket is not an arrestable or jailable offense. But in Tennessee, motorists who run afoul of this law could spend thirty days in jail. Therefore, especially if there are aggravating circumstances, violators of the hands-free law could land in jail. As outlined below, there are several jail release options. If you need easy and immediate jail release in Montgomery or Robertson Counties, Fizer Bonding Company is there for you. If you need general advice about the criminal justice system, a Fizer bail bondsman near you can provide that information as well.
The Hands Free Law: A Closer Look
P.C. 412 technically became effective in July 2019. Most law enforcement agencies observed about a six-month grace period, so motorists could get used to the law. That informal grace period expired in the early spring of 2020, and we all remember what happened then. Officers wrote very few cell phone tickets last year, partially because there weren’t many drivers on the road, and most importantly because officers didn’t want to risk close contact with the Covid19 pandemic.
Now, in the spring of 2021, things are getting back to normal. That new normal includes aggressive enforcement of the hands-free law. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office recently used a school bus full of deputies to enforce it.
This effort was part of “Hands-Free Tennessee,” a traffic enforcement program which coincides with Distracted Driving Month. Since school bus passengers sit so high, it’s easier for them to spot drivers who are illegally using cell phones. At first, officers used a school bus which was clearly marked as a police vehicle. Then, they started using plain yellow school buses. The MCSO didn’t say how many tickets deputies wrote as they were riding the bus.
To break this down, let’s first look at exactly what the cell phone law says. Basically, it’s illegal to hold, use, or reach for a hand-held device in Tennessee. The “reaching for” provision makes the Volunteer State’s law almost unique. Most other states allow drivers to push a button or swipe a screen to cancel alerts.
According to this article, the school bus enforcement gimmick was part of a STEP campaign. Selective Traffic Enforcement Program campaigns usually have catchy names, like “Hands-Free Tennessee” and “Click It or Ticket.”
Typically, a state agency, like the Tennessee State Highway Office, pays program expenses, like officer overtime and bus rental. To justify the cost, supervisors instruct officers to write as many tickets as possible. These aggressive enforcement efforts frequently make it easier to defend cell phone infractions, or any other criminal offense, in court. More on that below.
Jail Release Options
SInce a hands-free violation is a Class C misdemeanor, officers have the option to cite and release suspects instead of arresting them. Normally, that’s what happens. But there are a number of exceptions.
Some drivers are unruly in these situations. They don’t pull over right away, talk back to the officer, or otherwise annoy the officer. Such activity probably doesn’t rise to the level of interfering with a police officer, which is a somewhat more serious offense. But this mild intransigence is enough to land a driver in the back of a police car.
Assuming the defendant has no criminal history, pretrial release is usually available in these situations. If the defendant agrees to show up at trial and abide by a few other conditions, the sheriff releases the defendant.
If the distracted driver causes a crash, Fizer Bonding Company, a Montgomery County bail bonds agency probably needs to get involved to get you out of jail cheap, easy, and quick, because the sheriff will probably set cash bail. Authorities often think that such drivers are too dangerous to get in their cars and drive home. The judge usually sets cash bail at about $500-$1000.
In such situations, some people can afford to pay the cash bail in full to get out of jail. The money is like a rental security deposit. If the defendant appears at trial and obeys any other conditions, like remaining in the county, the defendant gets most of the money back.
Alternatively, a Fizer Bonding Company Clarksville, TN bail bondsman can write a surety bond. If the defendant does not fulfil all conditions, the bonding company pays the cash bail amount. The charge is about 10 percent of the bond.
A fatal injury collision could mean a much higher bail amount, or even no bail at all. At the arraignment, which usually happens about three days after the arrest, an attorney can ask the judge to set or reduce bail. Some factors to consider include the defendant’s threat to the community, ability to pay bail, and their contacts and responsibilities with the community.
Defending Cell Phone Violations in Court
Tennessee’s hands-free law bans most smartphone activities, but not all of them. It’s okay to look at an alert, like an incoming message alert or a calendar reminder. To prove that the defendant was using the device, and not just looking at it, the prosecutor might need the device use log. That probably means a subpoena duces tecum (a subpoena which commands appearance at trial and the production of documents).
Most prosecutors don’t want to go to this much trouble in a Class C misdemeanor. So, they are usually willing to make favorable deals.
An aforementioned STEP campaign makes things even more complicated for the state. Troubled heiress Patty Hearst once said that trouble is easy to find if you go looking for it. Similarly, if your boss tells you to write cell phone tickets, that’s what you’ll do. So, the evidence is sometimes shaky. Additionally, such dragnet campaigns turn off many jurors who don’t particularly like police officers writing tickets to begin with.
For more information on getting a cheap, easy, fast bail bond in Montgomery and Robertson Counties for a cell phone ticket or would like free bail bond advice, contact Fizer Bonding Company. Our family owned company has been serving the bonding needs of Montgomery County over the past 40 years and is a proud member of the Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents. We offer our bonding services for only 10% of the bond amount. For more info about Fizer Bonding Company bail bonds, click here.
“We’ll get your tail outta jail!”
Fizer Bonding Company in Montgomery County Tennessee
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