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Extra fees can more than double cellphone fines

The state law making cellphone use while driving illegal has been in effect more than 18 months, and while many people may know that the fine for a first offense is $50, what is perhaps less common knowledge is that it is the beginning of the cost of a ticket.

“Assessments and fees are built into the statute,” said local attorney Dayvid Figler. “When it passed, they didn’t go out of their way to advertise that part of it. Everyone thinks it’s just a $50 slap on the wrist.”

The fine is $100 for the second offense and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses. The second, third and subsequent offenses count as moving violations, carrying four points against an offender’s license.

Depending on the municipality where the driver is cited, he can also end up paying for administrative assessments to cover court costs; and specialty court assessments, a fee divided among a large pool of offenders to cover expenses such as those for veterans courts or genetic marker testing.

“That’s to spread the cost of processing genetic material from crimes and suspects,” Figler said.

For example, if you’re caught swiping your finger across your smartphone to crank up your jams, you may end up helping to pay for identifying bodily fluids at a shootout.

“The statutory rate is where it starts, but depending on which municipality and which court you’re with, the actual amount you end up paying can range from $115 to $250,” said local attorney Mike Beede. “If you’re at Las Vegas Justice Court, where Metro sends the majority of tickets, it’s on the lower end. Henderson and North Las Vegas tend to be higher. If you get caught somewhere farther out, like Jean, you may end up paying more.”

A driver can be cited for a cellphone law infraction even if he is simply holding the phone in his hand, or touching it for some commonplace function, such as turning off the ringer.

There are exceptions to the statute. In theory, motorists can use their cellphones to report a medical emergency, a safety hazard or criminal activity. Voice-operated phones may be used.

Bluetooth earpieces also may be used, provided drivers aren’t touching their mobile device. Voice-operated navigation systems are legal to operate, but a hand-operated GPS is not.

“The statute specifically deals with electronic devices,” said Larry Hadfield, public information officer for the Metropolitan Police Department. “We don’t want people looking at their phones, texting or watching a movie on their iPad while they’re driving.”

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at or 702-380-4532.