Using Siri to Activate a Call Held Not to Be Same as Making a Phone Call on Cell Phone; Defendant Not Guilty
Section 1225-c(2a) of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law prohibits operating a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a mobile telephone to engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion without a hands-free device. In The People v. Andrew Welch, the defendant was charged with violating VTL § 1225-c. At trial, the police officer testified that he observed the defendant drove past him with a cell phone in his hand which he held close to his chin, and was talking into it. The defendant testified and admitted that he had the cell phone in his hand and was talking into it, but asserted he was using the phone's Siri feature to activate a call. Justice Karen Morris of Brighton Town Court held that the defendant's testimony, if believed, rebuts the inference that he was engaged in a call and instead establishes that he was activating a call, an action that is not illegal. She thus found the defendant not guilty.