A state appeals court has clarified what has long been a gray area in New Jersey's anti-texting while driving laws.

The court essentially ruled that while it is lawful to open an app on your phone for navigation while driving, tapping in the password for the app is illegal.

In November of 2019, Michaelangelo Troisi was driving in Princeton when a police officer saw him using his phone. He was pulled over and given a ticket for texting while driving and fined $206.

Troisi appealed, claiming he only opened the Google Maps app on his phone and typed in the password. He said he told the police officer who stopped him what he was doing, and he was given a ticket anyway.

There is a provision in the law (N.J.S.A 39:4-97.3) that states the definition of hand-free use, "shall not preclude the use of either hand to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the telephone."

It was on this basis that Troisi claimed he should not have been given a ticket.

The court disagreed and said Troisi went beyond what could be defined as activation or initiation under the law.

In its ruling, the Appellate Court rejected the argument that Troisi was not texting in the same sense of having a conversation, and wrote:

His (Troisi's) conduct in the car required him to divert his attention from steering his vehicle on a public road for enough time to enter his six-digit passcode, open the Google Maps app, and place the cursor in the window. Such conduct is in violation of N.J.S.A 39:4-97.3 and we find this result consistent with the Legislature's express interest. - New Jersey Appellate Court

Ultimately, Troisi will now have to pay the $206 violation plus $33 in court costs.

NJ.com reports Troisi represented himself on the appeal and did not use a lawyer.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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