Enacted vs. Enforced - What If They Differ?

One of our goals at ATLAS is to reduce ignorance of the law and ensure people know what it actually says. Laws aren't effective if we don't know what they say, but what about when the law is enforced in ways other than how it was written?

There are several cases where the way police enforce a law and the way the courts interpret the law doesn't mesh with what the law actually says. The laws of State of New York, for example, ban using cell phones while driving a moving motor vehicle. But this is not how the justice system treats it.

Unless you are lawfully parked in New York police will ticket you for using a portable electronic device while operating a moving motor vehicle (VAT 1225-D) . This law very clearly states "no person shall operate a motor vehicle while using any portable electronic device while such vehicle is in motion". In almost every state that uses this language, "in motion" means that if the car is stopped for whatever reason then cell phone use is OK.

Not New York.

This puts our team in a bit of a bind. We want to increase awareness of what the law actually says, and when that conflicts with how a law is enforced it's important for people to know that they can get in trouble for something that isn't even actually illegal. At the same time, we don't want to tell people that the law says something is OK (even if the law says it is) when they can and will still get in trouble for it.

We provide all the details of the laws within our app so you can see for yourselves, and we're working on implementing ways to make these differences more apparent. One of our other goals is to help keep people safe from unexpected run ins with law enforcement - sometimes this goal comes into conflict with our goal of increasing legal awareness.

We provide as much information as we can but, in the end, always check with a lawyer before making legal decisions. Even though the law says one thing that doesn't mean you can't still get in trouble for doing what it says, all while thinking you're doing the right thing.