When considering whether to fight a traffic ticket, some people ask "won't you end up just paying the same amount with the added cost of an attorney?" The answer is usually no, not if you are looking at all of the hidden costs. Hiring an attorney to fight a traffic ticket can end up saving you $1,000+ on increased insurance costs alone. If points are added to your driving record because you were convicted of speeding, your car insurance rates in Florida will go up 22-30% (according to a carinsurance.com) and you can lose any "safe driver" discounts. Insurance companies consider the severity of the offense and the number of tickets within 3 years to determined how much they will raise your rates after each new citation, sometime as much as 50-100%! Florida is one of the Top 10 states for insurance rate increases from tickets and #3 in the US for total cost of auto insurance. Too many points can also result in your driver's license getting suspended (30 days for 12 points in 12 months, 90 days for 18 points in 18 months, and One year for 24 points in 36 months). While you can elect to go to traffic school, your insurance rates will still increase, so why not try to dismiss the ticket!
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WHAT ARE MY CHOICES WHEN I GET A TRAFFIC TICKET?
1) You could pay it, but absolutely shouldn't
If a person pays or sets up a payment plan within 30 days, they are admitting the infraction and have waived the right to a hearing. However, such admission shall not be used as evidence in any other proceedings.
2) You could go to traffic school, but your cost for insurance will still go up
Any person holding a noncommercial license driving a noncommercial vehicle, when not driving in excess of 30+ miles an hour, in lieu of a court appearance may elect traffic school/basic driver improvement course. If so, points must be withheld and the fine is reduced by 18%. However, you can't do this more than once per year and no more than 5 times during a person’s life. If traffic school is not completed in the time required, the person has admitted the infraction and points will be assessed.
3) Hire an attorney to fight the ticket
If a person elects to appear for a hearing they have waived their right to pay the statutory penalty. The commission of a charged infraction at a hearing under this chapter must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the State.
If the infraction is proven, the fine can be up to $500, except in cases of a school or construction zone, which can be up to $1,000 plus driver improvement school.
The following infractions require a mandatory hearing: Resulting in death or serious bodily injury of another, failure to stop for a school bus, failure to secure loads on vehicles and exceeding speed limit by 30+.. For any infraction requiring a mandatory hearing, the accused must sign and accept a citation and promise to appear, otherwise you can be charged with a separate misdemeanor crime.
If a mandatory appearance is not required, the officer’s signature is prima facie evidence that the person cited was served with the citation.
If any infraction results in a crash that causes the death of another, the fine shall be $1,000, plus any other penalties and a 6 month driver’s license suspension. If the crash results in a death, a person can still elect traffic school but the person who committed the infraction may have to perform 120 community service hours in addition to any other penalties.
If any infraction causes serious bodily injury, involves passing a stopped school bus, improperly secured hauling vehicles, exceeding the speed limit by 30+, the fine shall be $500, plus any other penalties and a 3 month driver’s license suspension.
I CAN'T AFFORD TO PAY?
If a person has been ordered to pay a civil penalty for a noncriminal traffic infraction and the person is unable to comply with the court’s order due to demonstrable financial hardship, the court shall allow the person to satisfy the civil penalty by participating in community service until the civil penalty is paid.
Anyone sited for a toll violation can pay a fine of $25 plus the toll directly to the toll authority. If not, there is an additional 45 days to request a hearing or pay the fine.
If you receive an infraction for improper motorcycle riding or driving 50+, the fine shall be $1,000. A second violation is $2,500 plus 1 year driver's license revocation. A third offense is a third degree felony, mandatory $5,000 fine, 10 year driver's license revocation.
Penalties may be imposed on a minor committing a traffic infraction, which if not complied with, may result in a finding contempt of court and placement in a secure shelter or detention center for up to 5 days on a first offense or up to 15 days for a second offense.
For the first conviction of DUI, the court may order the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke the minor’s driver license until the minor is 18 years of age. For a second or subsequent conviction for such a violation, the court may order the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke the minor’s driver license until 21 years old.
Failure to Pay or Appear
Driver's license suspension resulting from failure to pay, failure to attend driver improvement class, or Failure to appear shall remain on a record for 7 years. Also the person won’t be able to renew vehicle registration. A driver's license will be reinstated upon setting up payment plan and paying a fine. The clerk must set the case for a hearing within 180 days and may set the case for a hearing after 180 days. Once the hearing is set, the driver's license will be reinstated until a final determination at the hearing.
Decisions of the hearing officer are appealable, under the rules of court, to the circuit court. Appeals shall be based upon the record of the hearing before the hearing officer and shall not be hearings de novo. Appellants are responsible for producing the record of the hearing beyond that which normally results from the civil traffic infraction hearing process. Any appeals to the Circuit Court will not stay any HSMV action, however, the appellant can request a Judge grant a 60 day stay.
BEWARE SCHOOL ZONES
The following charged offenses are excluded from Chapter 318: Reckless Driving, DUI, Fleeing and Attempting To Elude, Leaving the Scene of a Crash, False crash reports, Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer, Failing to Follow Law Enforcement Officer's Order, any other offense in 316 classified as a crime.
Valid at the time
If a person who is cited can show proof of having a valid registration at the time of arrest, the clerk of the court may dismiss the case and may assess a dismissal fee of up to $10. A person who finds it impossible or impractical to obtain a valid registration certificate must submit an affidavit detailing the reasons for the impossibility or impracticality. The reasons may include, but are not limited to, the fact that the vehicle was sold, stolen, or destroyed; that the state in which the vehicle is registered does not issue a certificate of registration; or that the vehicle is owned by another person.
If a person who is cited can show a driver license issued to him or her and valid at the time of arrest, the clerk of the court may dismiss the case and may assess a dismissal fee of up to $10.
For all violations of air pollution or equipment malfunction, if the person committing the violation corrects the defect and obtains proof of such timely repair by an affidavit of compliance executed by the law enforcement agency within 30 days from the date upon which the traffic citation was issued, and pays $4 to the law enforcement agency, thereby completing the affidavit of compliance, then upon presentation of said affidavit by the defendant to the clerk within the 30-day time period, the fine must be reduced to $10.
You can enter a Plea of No Contest for certain criminal traffic offenses with proof of compliance. However, not more than once per year and no more than 3 times during a person’s life. This is not recommended without consultation of attorney, because many driver's license suspensions count towards a five year driver's license suspension as a Habitual traffic offender.
School zone fines are double and the fine shall be doubled for construction zone violations only if construction personnel are present or operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the road under construction.
Speeding fines are also doubled in toll collection zones if posted. Second conviction of speeding 30+ results in a doubling of fine (plea excludes no contest).
Violations of statutes protecting the blind and mobility impaired resulting in injury or property damage, incur an additional fine of $250.