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New Hampshire Supreme Court Goes “On the Road” to Hear Texting Case

The justices on the New Hampshire Supreme Court traveled to a high school to hear arguments in a case they thought could have a resounding effect on the more than five-hundred students in attendance–whether reading a text message while driving constitutes recklessness worthy of prison time. Brenda Barth, a history teacher at Bow High School, brought seventy students to the Supreme Court’s “On the Road” session at Concord High School. She said her students felt invested in the cellphone case. Dozens of students even lined up at microphones to question the lawyers involved in the case after the arguments concluded last Thursday.

Chad Belleville is currently serving three-and-a-half to seven years behind bars for second-degree assault and vehicular assault. The thirty year old informed police that he was reading a text message and did not realize he had swerved across two lanes and into oncoming traffic. It was December 2010 when Belleville crashed into a couple’s car and caused traumatic brain injury to their teenage son. Since January 2010, New Hampshire has had a ban on sending text messages while driving. Drivers who are found violating the law face a $100 fine. However, reading a text message while driving is not explicitly banned in the state.

Austin Mahew, a junior at Concord High School, stated, “In a case like this, where he doesn’t actually send a text, there seems to be no concrete barrier on how long it takes for you to look at a phone before it’s illegal and endangers someone. One second’s a lot different than 10 seconds.” According to Belleville’s lawyer, the amount of time Belleville took his eyes off the road to read the text message did not rise to the level of felony recklessness. A prosecutor argued that Belleville was so focused on reading the text message that he failed to see three cars driving right at him.

NH high court hears texting case at high school, October 17, 2013

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