Montana judge orders fines for ringing cell phones

Helena (MO) - Montana residents who end up in court may be subject to a fine before their case reaches a verdict, if their cell phone goes off in Judge Jeffrey Sherlock’s courtroom in the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse. The judge has mandated a required $5 fee for anyone who owns a cell phone that rings during one of his trials.

During one of his recent trials, Sherlock collected $25 from the new cell phone fine. Sherlock says that when the mobile ringtones go off, he gets "angry" and it causes the trial to become unproductive.

Sherlock, in his mid-50s, said he is especially annoyed that people in his age group are some of the worst offenders when it comes to cell phone etiquette. He said that his cell phone is only used "for outgoing calls. It’s never turned on and nobody knows the number," according to a quote in a local Montana community newspaper.

So far Sherlock says the response to the fine has been positive. The collected money is donated to Helena’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Cell phones have added extra headaches to many other activites, the most obvious of which is driving. Lawmakers at local levels have tried to ban using mobile phones while behind the wheel, and just recently the laws have begun to be considered. California actually passed such a law, which goes into effect in July of 2008. Maryland and Utah are also considering similar bans.