Is speaker phone considered 'hands-free?' Judge says no

If you're talking on the phone while driving, but the call is on the loud speaker and the person in the passenger seat is holding the phone, are you using a "hands free device?"

It's a question that came up in Rosemere Municipal Court.

The debate stems from a ticket handed to a motorist who a police officer said was talking on his cellphone when he pulled out of a car wash last September.

In court the man did not deny he was talking on the phone, but he maintained he was never holding it. He said it was his wife who was holding the phone while the caller was projected over the loud speaker. He told the judge the bright screen the officer thought he saw near his head was actually the TV screen built into his head rest. His wife backed up her husband's claims.

The testimony led to Judge Jean-Sebastien Brunet to dig into the wording of the Highway Safety Code and the definition of the word device.

The judge ruled that is logical the intention of the law was not only to stop people from using a device while holding it, but to also ban the use of a cell phone unless the driver is using a hands-free device. He then said while the law does not define what exactly a device is; it does mean some type of external equipment. Therefore whether a driver's phone is rested on a surface in the vehicle or being held by a passenger, it is not being used with a hands-free device and against the law.

The judge also did not believe the motorist and his wife's version of the events. In his report the officer said he saw the man holding the phone and talking on it when he pulled into the parking lot and it was only afterwards that he handed the phone to his wife. The judge ruled that it is highly improbable the police officer confused a cellphone for a small TV screen. He also poked holes in the wife's story, adding that if the call had been on speaker phone for near 15 minutes, as she and her husband claimed, she would have been able to describe what the call had been about. However when asked in court she said she did not know.

The judge upheld the ticket, which was worth more than $300.