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Judge Rules on Man Caught Driving With Dead Cellphone

Canadian judge explains his thinking in detail
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2019 4:09 PM CDT
Stock image.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A man caught driving with a dead cellphone has been found guilty of using a cellphone while driving, the Guardian reports. A Canadian judge ruled Monday that Patrick Henry Grzelak, caught wearing earbuds behind the wheel in British Columbia in Oct. 2018, had broken the law. "The cellphone itself … was not in the defendant’s hands, or in his lap," wrote Justice Brent Adair in his ruling. "But that is not the end of the matter." Indeed, the battery was stone dead while the iPhone sat in the cubby hole of the dashboard, per the CBC. "The screen was not illuminated, no music, no conversation or anything else was coming through the earbuds," Adair concedes.

But by "plugging the earbud wire into the iPhone, the defendant had enlarged the device" the same way a keyboard effectively extends a computer when plugged in, says Adair. Because the buds "were part of the electronic device and since the earbuds were in the defendant’s ears," Adair decided that "the defendant was holding the device (or part of the device) in a position in which it could be used, ie his ears." Adair also pointed to a 2015 precedent that holding a dead phone still constitutes using a phone. Grzelak will be fined $276 and docked four points from his license. On the plus side, the Vancouver Sun notes, he drives a Mercedes. (Washington state cracked down on eating at the wheel a couple years ago.)

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