NEWS

Is using Google Maps while driving a crime?

06/28/2013 08:28 EDT | Updated 08/28/2013 05:12 EDT
The case of a Nova Scotia woman first acquitted and then found guilty of using her phone as a navigation tool sheds light on the problem of prosecuting offences involving smartphones.

Texting and driving, or talking while driving on a cellphone without a Bluetooth headset is illegal in Nova Scotia. However, using a global positioning system for navigation is not. Nowadays smartphones act not only as telephone and texting devices, but also as navigation tools that drivers can use just as they would a standalone GPS.

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia upheld an appeal by the Crown involving Pamela Ferguson, who was using her phone’s map software while driving.

According to court documents, in May of 2012 police pulled Ferguson over just off of Highway 103 near Exit 14 in Lunenburg County.

Ferguson told the officer she wasn't texting or talking, that she was simply checking a Google map on her phone.

Used phone while driving

The matter went to court, and the judge in the original trial acquitted Ferguson. The judge ruled the Motor Vehicle Act only applies to a cellphone’s “traditional function.”

But the Crown appealed that decision.

On Thursday, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled that Ferguson was guilty of using "a hand-held cellular telephone" while driving.

“The trial judge erred in adopting the definition of a hand-held cellular telephone,” the court documents say. “Ms. Ferguson was using her hand-held cellular device while operating a vehicle on a highway.”

Justice Richard Coughlan said he will receive submissions from counsel before sentencing.

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