British Columbia

B.C. judge tosses out distracted driving ticket, rules charging phone is not using it

The police officer who ticketed the Vancouver Island driver argued that having the phone on the driver's lap and plugged in was illegal under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Police officer argued driver was guilty by having her device on her lap and plugged in

A B.C. Provincial Court justice has ruled the law is unclear when it comes to what can be considered holding and using a device while behind the wheel. (Burnaby RCMP)

A provincial court judge has ruled a Vancouver Island woman who was ticketed for distracted driving was not violating the law.

Meghan Sarah Wesley Wylie was issued a ticket in Esquimalt, B.C., in December 2018 after a police officer spotted her at a red light with her cellphone sitting on her lap and plugged in to charge.

The officer argued Wylie was guilty under the Motor Vehicle Act because the act states that operating a function of a device is an offence and the officer considered charging to be a function of the phone.

The officer also argued that by having the phone on her lap, Wylie was guilty of holding it.

But Justice Hunter Gordon did not agree with the officer on either point, taking issue with the terms "function" and "holding" and how the officer interpreted them.

In the ruling, Gordon said plugging in a device to charge a battery is not "the ordinary and grammatical meaning of the operation of a function." She noted the screen on Wylie's phone was not illuminated and there was no evidence it was turned on when she was ticketed.

Gordon also pointed out the Cambridge English Dictionary definition of "hold" means to take and keep something in your hands. 

Wylie was acquitted of the charges and Gordon concluded that "the law on the meaning of use is still not settled."

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