If you receive a Florida traffic ticket you have options to consider. The first question that needs to be asked is what kind of ticket is it. Florida issued 4,384,752 criminal, non-moving and moving traffic violations in 2010. Florida had three types of tickets and now actually has a fourth. The first type of ticket is a non-moving civil traffic infraction. Non-moving violations are things like seatbelt tickets, not having proof of insurance, failing to display a driver’s license or tag. The state of Florida issued 1,681,857 non-moving traffic infractions in 2010. Non-moving violations do not put points on your license. Many non-moving violations can be fixed and resolved for a reduced fee. The local Clerk of Court can generally give you information on non-moving violation options. An attorney can and will fight non-moving violations but they are usually just over $100 and will not place points on your license.
The second type of traffic ticket is a moving civil traffic infraction. Common moving infractions are speeding tickets, careless driving, running a red light (not red light camera tickets they are the new fourth type of ticket), running a stop sign. Florida issued 2,177,753 moving traffic violations in 2010. If not handled correctly moving violations can place points on your license and increase insurance cost but steps can be taken to prevent insurance increases or points. If a moving violation is paid you will receive points on your license and your insurance cost will likely increase. An attorney can fight or negotiate to prevent an adjudication of guilt. Withholding adjudication prevents insurance rates from increasing and keeps points off your license as long as property damage was not involved. A class can be elected to prevent points and insurance increases. The class can only be elected once a year for a total of five times during your life.
The advantage of hiring an attorney for your first tickets is avoiding one of the five lifetime class elections. Even if you are sentenced to a class it will not count as one of the five class elections. If the citation is amended to a different infraction or speed you could save around $100 and avoid the four hour class. If an attorney is hired on the first two or three infractions use of the class can be delayed until you need it to prevent an adjudication of guilt. After accumulating some tickets it becomes more difficult to keep points off and insurance from increasing. If an attorney gets a withhold on the first three or four tickets the classes can be used once a year to continue keeping points off and insurance down. Many moving violations do not require a hearing but some citations have mandatory hearing requirements. The traffic tickets that require an appearance in traffic court are load not secured: 316.520(1) or 316.520(2), passing a stopped school bus on enter/exit side: 316.172(1B), any citation that resulted in a fatality or serious bodily injury, child unattended: 316.6135, speeding in excess of 30 MPH: 316.183, 316.187 and 316.189.
The third type of ticket is the criminal traffic infractions. DUI is unique among criminal traffic infractions. It requires steps to be taken within 10 days to prevent an administrative suspension of the accused Florida driver’s license. If you are arrested for a DUI contact a DUI attorney immediately to protect your license. Things like DUI, reckless driving, leaving the scene of a crash, driving while license suspended canceled or revoked with knowledge and no valid driver’s license. Criminal infractions cannot be paid without appearing in court. They are all punishable by 60 days in jail or greater depending on the charge. That does not mean you will go to jail for a no valid driver’s license but it is within the sentencing guidelines. Your liberty could be at stake so you must appear in court unless your presence is waived by an attorney with permission from the Judge (it is common practice for private attorneys to waive pre-trial appearance for client convenience). If you are found to be unable to afford an attorney by the statutory guidelines a public defender will be appointed for a $50 application fee and usually an additional $50-$100 resolution fee depending on how the case is resolved. It is important to contact an attorney because criminal cases can increase insurance, suspend your license and have other far reaching collateral consequences. An example of a collateral consequence is that driving could be a felony for up to five years if designated a habitual traffic offender. Florida issued 525,142 criminal traffic infractions in 2010.
The fourth type of ticket is spreading across Florida. Red light camera tickets are unique in that they are just a fine. They do not currently increase insurance or place points on your license if paid within 30 days of receipt. If they are not paid they transform into a red light ticket and the fine increases by around $100 and 4 points could be placed on your license. Numerous challenges are popping up with red light camera tickets. Generally the cheapest way to resolve them is to pay the $150-$160 ticket. Some places they are being fought and won but usually at a cost that is around or higher than the fine. Before you pay one of these tickets make sure it is not a moving violation that will place points on your license.