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Having someone hold your phone for you not ‘hands-free,’ Rosemère judge rules

WATCH: A municipal court judge has upheld a fine for a Blainville man caught using the speaker phone feature on his phone while driving. The man was fined $682. As Global's Billy Shields explains, some lawyers worry the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for how the distracted driving law is interpreted.

A Montreal-area man will have to pay a $300 fine for answering a call on speaker while his passenger held the phone up to him.

A judge at the municipal court in Rosemère, north of the island of Montreal, declared the man was not using a “hands-free device.”

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Steeve Poulin will also have to pay $342 in fees and $40 in additional fines.

He was driving southbound on Labelle Boulevard on Sept. 5, 2018 when he was spotted by a police officer.

READ MORE: Our brains can’t make a left-hand turn while talking on a hands-free phone, Canadian researchers say

According to court documents, the officer states Poulin pulled into a gas station and he could see the screen of the cellphone illuminated on the man’s left ear.

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Poulin then allegedly drove through the car wash and emerged, still talking on the phone.

The officer stated he observed the man for about 15 minutes before ticketing him for distracted driving.

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In court, Poulin contradicted several details of the officer’s report.

He argued that he was never holding the phone — his wife, Marie-Josée Tremblay, was — though he admitted he was answering a call.

READ MORE: Should Quebec ban cellphones in classrooms like Ontario just did?

When asked, Tremblay said she did not know what the call was about but presumes it was probably about work.

In looking up the Highway Safety Code, Judge Jean-Sebastien Brunet found that “hands-free” refers to an external piece of equipment used to hold the phone but does not include a passenger’s hand.

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He said he also found it odd that the wife claimed to have been holding the phone on speaker for her husband for 15 minutes but could not say what the call was about.

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READ MORE: Stricter rules for talking, texting while driving take effect Sunday

Brunet argues that he believes the man was holding his phone and only handed it over to his wife after being stopped by the officer.

Defence attorneys told Global News they are concerned this decision could set a precedent, making it difficult to use hands-free devices in cars.

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