CASE LAW - R v Rajani

BC Courts Coat of ArmsOn March 15, 2019 Zahir Rajani was issued a violation ticket for using an electronic device while driving. He had been observed by police to be looking down while driving his vehicle. When stopped, it was discovered that Mr. Rajani had a cell phone in his lap, facing up, connected by cord. The constable could not say if the screen was lit or not. Mr. Rajani disputed the ticket.

At trial, the judicial justice convicted Mr. Rajani, concluding that he was using his cell phone. That conviction was appealed in the B.C. Supreme Court.

Madam Justice MacNaughton examined the law and the circumstances. She upheld the conviction, saying that supporting a phone in your lap amounts to holding it:

[27] To interpret “holding” as being restricted to an action done with one’s hands is is not in harmony with the scheme of the distracted driving provisions of the MVA. Such an interpretation would allow drivers to operate their vehicles with electronic devices in their laps, between their thighs, tucked under their arms or chins, or supported by other parts of their bodies.

[28] I conclude that Mr. Rajani’s behaviour, as described either by Constable Doyon or by Mr. Rajani, amounted to “holding the device in a manner in which it may be used” as proscribed by the definition of “use” in s. 214.1 of the MVA.

Mr. Rajani took his conviction to the BC Court of Appeal. On July 27, 2021 the conviction was upheld at that level as well.

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