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New York state’s new law limiting cell phone conversations while driving passed its first judicial test earlier this month, when a village court judge in Nassau County found no state or federal constitutional flaws in the ban. Village Court Justice Robert G. Bogle, from the Village of Valley Stream, found that the law was not vague or overly broad, did not violate the right of privacy and did not violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The cell phone law, VTL 1225-C, is the first of its kind in the country. On Dec. 1, 2001, police began enforcing the law, which allows for a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second violation and $500 for additional ones. Though the law bans talking on hand-held phones while driving, a driver is allowed to use “hands-free” devices, such as headsets or speakerphones. The case before Justice Bogle, People v. Neville, involved a traffic ticket given to Victoria Neville 10 days after the law went into effect. Neville was observed using her cell phone by a police officer while driving down Rockaway Avenue. In affirming the law, the judge found that it satisfied the state’s interest in protecting its citizens, much like the enactment of seat-belt laws. “The only impediment placed on the public is to refrain from using a hand-held cell phone while the car is in motion,” the judge wrote. “This limited inconvenience is no greater than requiring the use of seat belts or motorcycle helmets, or prohibiting cigarette smoking in public buildings.” The judge also addressed the law’s exemptions, which include individuals who operate authorized emergency vehicles and individuals who are calling an emergency response operator to obtain medical or police assistance. “The new cell phone law and its exclusions are not based on race, sex, age or national origins,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, no strict scrutiny test requiring or compelling governmental interest is necessary.” The judge’s opinion was signed Jan. 4. Steven G. Reddan of the Village Prosecutor’s office in Valley Stream, N.Y., represented the state. Neville appeared pro se.

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