Misunderstanding Leaves Hands-Free Fine Triple What We Thought
The state-wide hands-free law went into effect at a minute past midnight Thursday morning, meaning anyone who holds or operates their phone while driving, even at a stoplight or in traffic, will face a lofty ticket. During hearings to introduce the law, Sen. William Diamond, D-Cumberland, had proposed a $50 fine for first offenses, totaling $85 after tacking on court fees.
The language of the law, however, could have been more decisive with their actual numbers, according to the Press Herald.
The wording surrounding the first offense fine was "not less than $50", so in an updated schedule of fine amounts released Wednesday, Chief Judge Susan Oram set the penalty at $230 total, $170 for the base fine and $60 in court fees. At nearly triple the original amount, the first offense fine far exceeds the punishment Diamond had envisioned when proposing the law.
“I’m a little concerned that the chief district court judge would triple it,” Diamond told the Press Herald. “That doesn’t make sense to me. This is totally out of (line with) what the intent was and what we told people.”
After finding out about the judge's decision, Diamond said he intended to talk to her and hoped she would voluntarily walk back the fee to the originally proposed amount. If she refused, Diamond said he would file emergency legislation during the next session to adjust the language of the law.
Whether the price of using your device in the car stays where it is or gets reduced, it's a good idea to avoid paying any money (and getting into any accidents) by buying yourself a phone holder STAT!