It can happen to anybody, but it is a universal fear whenever you see sirens behind you. Did I do something wrong? Did I roll through that stop sign? Was I speeding? What is the status of my license or registration? Have I had one too many drinks?
Oftentimes it is only after you receive the ticket, or after you've been arrested that you realized you did anything that violated the law. In that sense, Florida is a strict liability state. So, if you are speeding a few miles over the limit, it is no defense that you were going with traffic or you didn't realize the speed. That is why it is important to talk to an attorney right away about all of your traffic matters.
Many of the traffic violations are considered infractions. That means that there is no possibility of jail, but you could still face stiff fines, points on your license, as well as license suspensions in some cases. Many of the common traffic infractions are listed below.
- Violation of Traffic Control Device
- Careless Driving
- Driving While License Suspended WITHOUT Knowledge
- Running a Red Light
- Improper Passing
- Violation of Right of Way
- Toll Violations
- Seat belt violations
- Failing to change address within 10 days
- Open Containers
Traffic infractions are treated differently from criminal traffic charges in many respects. For example, there is no prosecutor. The police officer acts as the prosecutor. In many jurisdictions, there is not even a judge but a hearing officer. The hearing officer is a non-elected attorney who acts as a magistrate to hear all traffic matters. Sometimes a hearing officer is a better option than a judge, but that is why it is good to speak to an attorney to discuss which option is better for each individual. Another important difference is that if you hire an attorney it is not usually necessary for you to appear in court as we will do that for you.
One important thing to avoid is an adjudication of guilt, as that will have a very negative impact on your insurance. Clients have informed me that their rates have gone up by $500 to $1,000 per year, even without a prior record. While every case, and every insurer is different, it is a warning to make sure you have experienced counsel to fight your traffic charges. As you can see by the language in the following statute, it is crucial to get a withhold of adjudication if a dismissal becomes impossible despite an attorney's best efforts. See Fla. Stat. 626.9541, "No insurer shall impose or request an additional premium, cancel a policy, or issue a nonrenewal notice on any insurance policy or contract because of any traffic infraction when adjudication has been withheld and no points have been assessed pursuant to s. 318.14(9) and (10). However, this subparagraph does not apply to traffic infractions involving accidents in which the insurer has incurred a loss due to the fault of the insured." Even in accident cases, the withhold of adjudication or dismissal can help minimize or even neutralize any negative consequences from your insurer.Should I take Traffic School?
There are pros and cons to the traffic school. Of course, there is the extra cost and time. The basic defensive driving school is 4 hours long, can be done in person, or online, and can cost anywhere from $15 to $50. (The quality is usually similar so shop around). You are also limited when you can elect traffic school. You can only do it once every twelve months or 5 times in your lifetime. That said, traffic school is a better option than just paying the ticket because that puts points on your license and will cause your insurance rates to rise. In fact, if you have a commercial driver's license (CDL), you don't even have an option to elect the traffic school. Therefore, you can only pay the ticket and be assessed the points or you can hire an attorney.
Before you just pay the ticket or elect the school it is best to at least consult an attorney. Even if you have no prior record, it may be advantageous to hire an attorney to fight this for you. There are various strategies that can be used for each type of ticket. Remember that you only have 30 days from the date the ticket was issued to fight the ticket. If you wait after that time, your license will be suspended. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.