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FLORIDA TRAFFIC DEFENSE ATTORNEY

Attorney Howard Currie defends all traffic cases in Florida.

TRAFFIC - CIVIL

Upon receipt of a traffic ticket for any violation, you have 30 days from the date of issuance of the ticket to exercise any one of the following three options:

1.                  Pay the Ticket

2.                  Go to Driver's Improvement School

3.                  Contest the ticket and go to court

TRAFFIC - CRIMINAL

A criminal traffic charge is a violation of Florida Statutes, which requires a court appearance. Some examples are:

1.    Driving While License is Suspended 

2.    Driving Under the Influence 

3.    Reckless Driving

Criminal charges carry penalties, which may include fines and court costs, probation and/or the possibility of a jail term. Persons charged with a criminal offense will receive a citation indicating a court date, time and location. A person may also be arrested on a criminal traffic charge and booked into the county jail.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER
The contents of this website should not be considered or relied upon as legal advice in any manner whatsoever ; may be considered advertising under some states’ Bar Rules ; and do not establish an attorney/client relationship with this law firm. Unless otherwise stated, no article or text on this Internet site is, has been, or will be updated or revised for accuracy as statutory or case law changes following the date of first publication. Always consult with your lawyer, and/or your other professional advisors, before acting. 

What is a criminal traffic or misdemeanor charge? 
A criminal traffic or misdemeanor charge requires a court appearance and carries with it criminal penalties which may include a fine and/or the possibility of a jail term. Payment of a criminal traffic ticket cannot be automatically made to the Clerk's office. Persons charged with a criminal offense, if not given a court date at the jail, will need to come to the Clerk's Office and set a court date or will be notified by mail

What is a civil traffic infraction? 
A civil traffic infraction is a non-criminal charge such as a speeding violation, that can usually be disposed of by payment of a civil penalty or an election to attend a defensive driving school course. A court appearance is not required, except in cases were the violation involves an accident with serious bodily injury or fatality to another. Payment can be made by mail by using the traffic envelope provided by the officer, or you may pay in person.

How soon after issuance must I pay the ticket? 
Infraction violations must be paid within 30 calendar days from the date the ticket was issued. Criminal violations are due on or before the date the Court authorizes.  If a ticket is not paid within 30 calendar days from the date of issuance, a suspension will be entered against your driver license, which could affect your insurance rates and will subject you to additional penalties.

What if I receive a letter from the State of Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles informing me that my license will be suspended?
If you receive a letter from the State of Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles informing you that your license will be suspended, you MUST COMPLY on or before the business day before the date stated on the letter. The suspension date listed on the letter goes into effect at midnight on that date.

Can I get an extension for my payment due date?
Within the first 30 days from the offense date, the Clerk is allowed to extend a one-time continuance for 60 days from the original due date. If a payment continuance is requested for a civil infraction payment, this request waives the individual's right to elect Driving school or later plead not guilty and request a court date.

If you were charged with failing to carry your driver's license, registration, insurance, you must provide proper proof to the Clerk of Court within 30 days of the time of the stop along with the required $10 dismissal fee.  Payment extensions are not allowed for dismissals.

If you were cited for failure to maintain proof of insurance and did not have valid insurance for at the time of the stop, you may elect to enter a plea of no contest and present proper proof of insurance to the Clerk of Court.  Adjudication is withheld.  This election and payment of costs must be made within 30 days to the Clerk of Court.  Payment extensions are not allowed for elections as set forth in section 318.14(10)(a), Florida Statutes.

Can I get an extension for my court date?
Yes, but only for first time arraignment dates. All other requests must be directly made through the appropriate judge.

What happens if the ticket is not paid?
A suspension will be entered against your driver's license which could affect your insurance rates and subject you to additional penalties. Effective July 1, 2004, Florida Statute 938.35 authorized the Clerk to employ a collection agency for all unpaid debts. If this citation is referred for collection efforts, an additional service fee up to 35% will be added onto the total amount of the unpaid financial obligations which remain unpaid 90 days or greater from the payment due date.

Are there other options available to me besides paying my ticket?
Yes, each type of ticket carries a statutory fine and possible point assessment. You have thirty calendar days from the date you received your ticket to select from one of the available choices:

Choice A - Pay your fine as indicated on the back of your ticket. Paying the fine means you admit to the violation listed on your ticket. Occasionally the ticket you receive has a printed fine amount, but the actual fine amount reflected is different. Usually the actual fine amount is higher. This may be attributed to the fact that many county governments add surcharges to tickets by ordinance that the state does not reflect when the ticket is printed. Points may be assessed against your driving record if the violation is one that carries points.  
Choice B - Request a hearing by notifying the Clerk's Office, in person or in writing, within thirty (30) calendar days of issuance. Your case will be scheduled for a civil infraction arraignment hearing where you will be formally advised of the charge against you. If you want to contest the charge, the case will be continued over to a non-jury trial for a later date.
Choice C - Request adjudication to be withheld (no points assessed to your driving record. 
Choice D - Plea not guilty. If you want to plea not guilty, and request an arraignment, contact the Clerk’s Office and request an arraignment hearing.   Or, go to the Clerk’s website and complete the Written Plea of Not Guilty affidavit form . Once completed, send it along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to the address as shown on the citation.  Upon receipt, you will be notified of the non-jury trial date.  
Choice E- Elect to attend a Defensive Driving course approved by the State of Florida, in the location of your choice. In such case, adjudication shall be withheld and point will not be assessed provided that you have not attended driving school in the last twelve months and if you have not been to driving school five (5) times in a lifetime, you are making this election within 30 days of the date of the citation or before the payment due date, you do not hold a commercial driver license, you were not traveling in excess of 30 miles of the posted speed limit, you have not previous appeared before the court on the citation and adjudicated already.
Choice F - Request an extension for payment. If a payment continuance is requested within the first 30 days from the violation date, the Clerk is allowed to extend an one-time continuance for sixty (60) days from the original payment due date.  This request waives your right to elect a hearing and later plead not guilty. This continuance also waives your choice to attend a defensive driving school or provide proof of compliance for specific violations.

Florida law allows you thirty (30) calendar days from the issue date of your ticket to comply with one of these choices. If you fail to select one within the thirty day compliance period, you are subject to late fees and possible suspension of your driver license. If you continue to drive on a suspended license, you may be arrested by any law enforcement agency.


How do I enter a not guilty plea to a civil traffic infraction?
You must notify the Clerk's office, in person or in writing, within the required time frame. Your case will be scheduled for an infraction arraignment hearing where you will be formally advised of the charge against you. You may at that time change your plea and disposition will take place. If you still want to contest the charge, the case will be continued over to a non-jury trial for a later date.

Who will be present at the non-jury hearing?
The officer who issued the traffic ticket and any other witnesses called by the officer or any other witnesses that you wish to call to testify on your behalf. If you choose to subpoena witnesses on your behalf, it will be your responsibility for the preparation and costs.  Most civil infractions are heard by Hearing Officers. Contested parking ticket cases are also heard by the Hearing Officers.

What must I do if the court finds me guilty?
If you are found guilty of a civil traffic infraction the court may assess the fine and costs, order you to attend a defensive driving course or impose other penalties. If you should fail to pay the fine and costs in the time allotted you by the court, a suspension will be issued against your driver's license and additional penalties will be imposed. If you are found guilty of a criminal charge, the court may assess the fine and costs, order you to attend driver improvement, place you on probation or impose other penalties. If you should fail to pay the fine and costs in the time allotted you by the court, or fail to complete any other sanction placed upon you by the court, a suspension may be issued against your driver's license, a warrant may be issued for your arrest, or varying additional penalties may be imposed by the Judge

How can I satisfy a traffic civil infraction? 
Payable civil infractions may be satisfied in one of several ways:

by entering a plea of Not Guilty,
by electing to attend a defensive driving course,
by submitting an Affidavit of Compliance for cases involving safety equipment violations which have been corrected by you.
OR, Traffic tickets written for certain driver license, registration or insurance violations may be dismissed by the Clerk if proof of compliance at the time the ticket was issued can be shown.

The fee owed is different than what the deputy or officer listed on my citation.  Why is that?
Fees for traffic fines may change during the year. The fine provided by the deputy may not be accurate.


Can I get a payment extension?
Extensions to pay are granted for a one-time, 60 day period if requested on or before the original 30 day due date. You must notify the Clerk's Office, in person or in writing, within the required time frame of thirty (30) calendar days from the date of issuance of the ticket.  Once this option is elected, it waives your right for a court date or to elect to attend a Defensive Driving School.

How long do I have to enter a not guilty plea to a civil infraction?
You must notify the Clerk's Office, in person or in writing within the required time frame of thirty (30) calendar days from the date of issuance of the ticket.

What if I live outside of the County? 
If you wish to plea Not Guilty to a traffic infraction ticket, and you cannot appear for a hearing because you live outside the County, you must complete an Affidavit of Defenseand file it with Polk County Clerk’s Office on or before the 30-day due date.

Effective October 1, 2006, speed in excess of 30 mph over the posted speed limit requires a mandatory court appearance. The fine is doubled for a second or subsequent conviction within 12 months when speed exceeds the limit by 30 mph or more. A person may not elect to attend a defensive driving course in lieu of a court appearance.

What if I'm found guilty of a civil traffic infraction?
If you are found guilty of a civil traffic infraction, the court may assess fine and costs, order you to attend a defensive driving course or impose other penalties. If you should fail to pay the fine and cost within the time allotted you by the court, if any, a suspension will be issued against your driver's license and additional penalties will be imposed.

Fines for civil infractions are governed by Florida Statutes. Fines are distributed to various funds established by the legislature with a portion being returned to the issuing law enforcement agency and a service charge retained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court. 

Who may make an election to attend Defensive Driving School?
Any person charged with a moving or non-moving violation, other than violations involving driver's licenses, vehicle registration, proof of insurance, is eligible to elect to attend a defensive driving course in lieu of accumulating points on the driver history record. Effective July 1, 2005, per s. 318.14(9) and (10), drivers holding a commercial license may no longer make a school election.

What is the benefit of making an election?
There are two benefits. (1) No points will be assessed against your driver's license. (2)Attending a defensive driving course to satisfy the violation will be entered on your driver history record as an "adjudication withheld."

Do I have to pay to elect a defensive driving course?
Yes, the civil penalty is required by law to be paid in addition to the cost for the driving course which may range from $20 - $35.

How can I elect to attend a defensive driving course?
You must come to the Clerk's Office to make your election or, if you reside outside of the County, contact your local Clerk's Office and you may make your election to attend a defensive driving course by mail. Read the Affidavit carefully. Within thirty (30) calendar days of the date your ticket was issued, complete the affidavit, have your signature notarized and return the affidavit to the Clerk's Office in the envelope provided. Be sure to include a check or money order for the civil penalty and allow sufficient mail time to ensure your affidavit is received in the Clerk's Office with the thirty (30) calendared days required. After you have completed and paid the costs for the election, contact an approved school to arrange a schedule for the course. You must enroll, attend and complete the defensive driving course within ninety (90) calendar days from the date you elected to attend. You will need to be prepared to pay for the course at the time of enrollment.

Do I need to do anything else after I attend the defensive driving course?
Yes, you must present proof of completion of the defensive driving course to the Clerk's Office. Proof must be received in the Clerk's Office within ninety (90) calendar days of the date you elected to attend the course.

Can I change my mind after I elect to attend a defensive driving course?
If you elect to attend a defensive driving course, you must enroll and complete the course, with proof of completion being presented to the Clerk's Office, within ninety (90) calendar days of your election. If you fail to meet any one of these requirements for any reason, an addition delinquency fee will be owed, your driver's license will be suspended, a reinstatement fee to reinstate your privilege to drive will be required and a conviction of the violation will be reported on your driver history record. If you contact the Clerk's Office before the ninety (90) days and state that you no longer wish to attend the defensive driving course, you will be assessed a $18 processing fee to the case per section 318.15 Florida Statutes.  Upon receipt of the fee, the case will be closed and the points will be assessed to the license..

How many times can I elect to attend a defensive driving course?
You may make an election to attend a defensive driving course to satisfy an eligible traffic violation one time in a twelve (12) month period, but no more than five times within a lifetime.

Where can I check the status of my drivers license?
The State of Florida has a site where you can find out if your license is valid by just entering your license number. If your license is not valid, a brief explanation of why and some instructions will display. Not all invalid license issues can be dealt with by the Clerk's Office. Some must involve the Department of Motor Vehicles, and for others you must contact the Clerk for the county in which the violation occurred.

How do I get my drivers license reinstated?
If your license is suspended for failure to pay a civil infraction, you may pay the fine amount owing plus the assessed delinquent fee, at one of the Clerks locations. The Clerk's Office can assist you in reinstating your license for those that the Clerk issued, except for those dealing with child support and financial responsibility. You will need to go to a driver license office for reinstatement, and a reinstatement fee will be required.

Where can I get a copy of my drivers license transcript?
Citizens can purchase copies of their driver license transcripts, which contain driver’s history information, from the Clerk of Court.