Michaelangelo Troisi has been a man on a mission for over two years. In November of 2019, he was pulled over by police in Princeton for texting while driving.

Except he wasn’t.

All he did was activate his phone with a password, 6 digits, to use a Google Maps app. That’s it. There was no texting and no conversation. He needed the GPS. That is, after all, the purpose of Google Maps, to assist drivers while they’re, well, driving.

Now presumably it would have been perfectly legal to go old school and fumble with a giant foldout paper map, the kind our grandpas used to hold up and block out half the windshield from view.

Photo by Stephen Monroe on Unsplash
Photo by Stephen Monroe on Unsplash
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But this — quickly entering the code to activate the phone — was considered texting while driving and given a $206 ticket. By the way, if Troisi is anything like me and almost all of us, he can enter that code pretty much without looking at his phone. It becomes muscle memory.

Yet the officer, who is immune from the very law he claims Troisi violated, decided to make a case. Troisi took it to court and challenged it. Twice in lower courts he lost. Now a state appellate court has upheld the lower court rulings.

“Defendant admitted that his 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 intent.”

Photo by Stephen Monroe on Unsplash
Photo by Stephen Monroe on Unsplash
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With all due respect, I call bull$?!+ on this.

Troisi cited language in the statute that prohibits texting while driving, which seems to prove his case. The language says while texting is not allowed, the law “shall not preclude the use of either hand to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of the telephone.”

Boom. He wins. At least he should. What the law says it does not preclude is exactly what Troisi did, he simply activated the phone to initiate a function. If the court cannot see that the law was written this way to prevent this exact sort of frivolous ticket from being written then they’re acting as legislators re-writing law rather than justices upholding it.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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