Articles Posted in Traffic Infractions

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In Florida, there are certain crimes that come with an automatic suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license. For instance, a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) conviction will always result in a driver’s license suspension of at least six months. Other crimes that come with driver’s license suspensions include possession of marijuana and racing if the defendant is convicted of one of those crimes.

Routine traffic offenses are not considered crimes in Florida. They are not normally handled in criminal court; they are handled in traffic court by a traffic court judge. The penalty for most traffic citations is a fine and possibly a driver improvement course. If a person gets a certain number of traffic tickets within a certain period of time, it can result in a driver’s license suspension.

While the penalty for most traffic tickets is a fine, the judge does have the authority to suspend a person’s driver’s license for a routine traffic violation like speeding or running a red light. A Florida statute gives the judge discretion to suspend a person’s driver’s license for a period of up to one year for certain traffic violations.

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In Florida, it is a misdemeanor crime to drive a vehicle if your driver’s license has been suspended. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can suspend your driver’s license for a variety of reasons – a DUI arrest, failing to pay traffic tickets, a possession of marijuana conviction and other reasons. If you get a few driving with a suspended license charges within a certain period of time, it can lead to habitual traffic offender status and a five year driver’s license revocation. This can become a real problem for someone who needs his/her vehicle for work, to take care of children and other necessities. Not only do multiple driving with a suspended license convictions result in longer driver’s license suspensions, if you get enough of these charges in a relatively short period of time, they can result in felony convictions and serious jail or prison time.

There is another basis for the state to suspend your driver’s license that has nothing to do with traffic laws or criminal charges. In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, a man was ordered to pay alimony, or spousal support, as part of a divorce judgment. However, he allegedly lost his job and stopped making the alimony payments. The Florida Department of Revenue sent him a notice of intent to suspend his driver’s license and motor vehicle registration for failing to pay alimony. The man challenged the procedure by which his driver’s license and vehicle registration were suspended, but he lost. The state is allowed to suspend a person’s driver’s license and vehicle registration for failure to pay alimony. The individual would be allowed to petition the court for relief based on the loss of his job or income, but this is another method by which the state can suspend a person’s driver’s license.

It could certainly be argued that this is a counterproductive enforcement technique, particularly if a person lost his/her job or had some other financial emergency. Additionally, if a person can not drive and gets a criminal conviction for driving with a suspended license, it makes it difficult to get or keep a job. Without stable employment, it is difficult to pay alimony or child support. On the other hand, when people do not pay alimony or child support, the state does not have many options to enforce the support order, and doing nothing certainly will not help the person who needs the financial assistance.

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One thing people in Florida do not always realize is that driving is considered a right, not a privilege. This does not mean that the DMV in Florida is going to withdraw drivers’ licenses for no reason, but it does mean that when the DMV does revoke a person’s driving privileges, that person may have much less recourse than in criminal cases where Constitutional rights are at issue.

For example, in DUI cases, the DMV will almost always suspend a person’s driver’s license based merely upon a DUI arrest. Of course, according to Constitutional law, a person is innocent until proven guilty and an arrest, by itself, is not proof of guilt. However, since driving is a privilege and the DMV operates under its own set of rules, they can suspend a driver’s license immediately upon a DUI arrest. The driver will have an opportunity to challenge the license suspension, but that process does not have anywhere near the safeguards and thoroughness that comes with a criminal case.

The DMV can also suspend your driver’s license if there is an indication that you are not medically fit to drive. All it takes to start this process is a report from someone that you are not medically fit to drive. This can be a doctor or anyone with any knowledge of your ability to drive. If someone makes such a report to the DMV, the DMV might open a file and send you a letter telling you to go see a doctor and get examined to see if the doctor thinks you should be driving. The doctor would then prepare a report that goes to the DMV. If the doctor concludes that you are not fit to drive, the DMV will likely suspend your license until you can prove, with the assistance of a doctor, that you are competent to drive.

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In Florida, it is illegal to get into a traffic crash and then leave the scene without waiting for the police and providing identification and insurance information. For crashes that involve minor impacts, there must be some property damage or injury to trigger the requirement to remain at the scene. Therefore, if you slightly hit another vehicle and verify there was no damage or injuries, you are free to leave. However, if there is any property damage, or any injury, you are not free to leave.

If a person is in a crash that involves serious injury or death and leaves the scene, it is a serious felony crime in Florida. The main idea is that if a person causes a serious injury or death, the police want to be able to investigate that person to see if he/she is following the law. If a person leaves the scene without waiting for police, the state assumes the person is involved in criminal activity such as driving while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license or recklessly caused the crash.

However, there have been “accidents” with serious injuries or death that do not involve actual crashes. In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the passenger somehow exited the moving vehicle, hit the pavement and died. The driver, however, just kept driving. After the driver was found and charged with leaving the scene of a crash involving death, the criminal defense lawyer argued the case should be dismissed because there was actually no “crash”. The evidence showed that the vehicle never hit the passenger or anything else to cause the passenger to exit the vehicle. While this is a good argument, the court rejected it.

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In some states, it is illegal to text while driving. In Florida, there is no law against it, but that will likely change soon. There are bills moving through the Florida legislature that would make it illegal to text and drive. If one of the bills becomes the law in Florida, it will not be a criminal offense to text and drive; it will merely be a civil traffic infraction that will result in a traffic ticket and a fine. Additionally as the proposed law appears now, it will be a secondary offense. The significance of this is that the police are not allowed to pull a driver over based solely on a secondary offense. If texting and driving becomes a secondary offense, the police cannot pull someone over and give them a ticket if they are just texting and driving. The police can only give a driver a ticket for texting and driving if he/she is able to pull him/her over for a primary offense such as speeding or running a red light.

This becomes critical in criminal cases as many criminal cases, such as DUI and possession of illegal drugs or guns, start with a simple traffic stop. In all of those cases, it is important that the criminal defense lawyer review the stop and make sure it was legal. If the initial traffic stop is not legal, the evidence obtained by the police officer after the stop cannot be used against the defendant if there is a subsequent arrest and criminal charge.

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The Florida Highway Patrol has announced intentions to increase efforts to stop road rage incidents and aggressive driving. This should result in more traffic stops which should also lead to more arrests. Aggressive driving typically means following too closely, quick lane changes and speeding. Those actions typically just result in traffic citations that are punishable by a fine, or potentially a license suspension if a driver gets too many within a certain period of time. If the aggressive driving is dangerous enough, in the opinion of the officer, it can become reckless driving which is a misdemeanor crime punishable by jail time. Additionally, many arrests for more serious crimes begin with a seemingly harmless traffic stop. Driving with a suspended license, DUI, possession of various illegal drugs, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and carrying a concealed weapon are all crimes that are often detected by police after an unrelated traffic stop.

Everyone should be aware of their rights. If a police officer stops you for violating a traffic law, that is not a legal basis to search you or your vehicle. The police officer can always ask you if you will consent to a search and make it sound like a good idea for you to consent to a search. However, everyone should understand that a traffic stop plus a police officer’s hunch that you are involved in a crime do not equate to probable cause to search, and you have a right to refuse a request to search you or any of your property.

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With oil speculators wreaking havoc with the oil markets and gas prices continuously increasing once again, we thought it might be helpful to post this article addressing rules for riding your bicycle in Florida. Yahoo! Sports cited Shorstein & Lasnetski, LLC in the article so we will return the favor and post their article on our blog.

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Jacksonville, Florida ranks fifth in the United States for speed traps, according to a report from the National Motorists Association as reported in an article on Newsjax.com. How often a city’s or county’s police department gives tickets is often related to the city’s or county’s financial situation. As everyone knows, Jacksonville is struggling like many other places.

In any case, getting a traffic ticket can have several serious ramifications. Normally, a traffic ticket results in a low three figure fine and some points on a person’s driving record. That, in and of itself, is not very serious. However, if a person accumulates multiple tickets over a period of time, the DMV can suspend that person’s driver’s license. Additionally, the DMV will suspend a person’s driver’s license if the traffic fine is not paid. If a person gets caught driving with a suspended license, he/she can be arrested for a crime and face jail time. If a person gets convicted three times for driving with a suspended license, in addition to jail time, that person faces a five year license revocation. So, one traffic ticket is not a serious matter. However, multiple traffic tickets can result in much more serious problems.

Individual traffic stops can also lead to very serious trouble. Many drug possession, gun possession and DUI cases result from a seemingly harmless traffic stop. The police officer may initially intend to write a speeding ticket but then suspect the driver is impaired and initiate a DUI investigation. A police officer may suspect a vehicle occupant has illegal drugs or a concealed firearm in the vehicle and search the vehicle either by consent of the driver or another method. Many routine traffic stops result in serious criminal arrests after the police officer conducts an investigation and finds something illegal in the vehicle. It is important for anyone to understand that he/she has a Constitutional right to refuse any time a police officer asks for consent to search a vehicle or anything else belonging to that person.

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It is not uncommon in the Jacksonville, Florida area and throughout Florida to see people riding motorcycles without a helmet. As criminal defense lawyers in the Jacksonville, Florida area, one question we recently were asked from a client is whether the police can pull them over for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. This can be much more serious than just being subjected to a traffic ticket. Many serious criminal cases start with a seemingly harmless police stop. Most DUI’s start with the police officer claiming to observe some sort of moving violation allowing him/her to pull the driver over and initiate a DUI investigation. Many illegal drug cases start the same way and end with the police searching the vehicle and/or the driver/passengers and finding illegal drugs. Gun arrests also often start with the police pulling a driver over for some sort of fairly harmless moving violation.

So, it is important as criminal defense lawyers, to understand when a police stop is unlawful because when it is an illegal stop and the police discover some evidence of a crime, that evidence can be thrown out of court.

In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, a police officer stopped a motorcycle driver for not wearing a helmet to ask him if he had proper motorcycle insurance. The officer then learned that the driver had a suspended license and arrested him. The criminal defense lawyer challenged the stop arguing that the police officer did not have a legal right to stop the motorcyclist for not wearing a helmet to check his insurance.

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We recently posted an article about how police in Jacksonville and throughout Florida are emphasizing DUI stops and arrests more than ever. It is important for people to know their rights when they are stopped by a police officer who believes he/she may be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A guilty or no contest plea to DUI in Florida brings about very serious consequences from a prolonged license suspension to significant fines and the possibility of a jail sentence. For that reason, if you have been stopped for a possible DUI or arrested for DUI in the Jacksonville area, consider immediately contacting a DUI attorney in Jacksonville with the experience to properly handle your DUI case.

We also came across a recent article in the Jacksonville news that said Jacksonville is the worst speed trap city in Florida. Of course, a speeding ticket is nowhere near as serious as a DUI. In Florida, a DUI is a misdemeanor crime that carries serious penalties. If a person gets a third DUI, the state has the option of charging him/her with a felony that carries up to five years in prison. A speeding ticket is a civil infraction for which a person can be fined, although that fine can be fairly high depending on the difference between the person’s speed and the speed limit. Additionally, with a speeding ticket and other traffic infractions, points can be assessed on a person’s driver’s license if the traffic citation results in a conviction. If a person gets too many points in a certain period of time or fails to properly deal with the traffic citation, that could result in a suspended license. If a person gets stopped for driving with a suspended license, he/she will likely be arrested for the crime of driving with a suspended license which is a misdemeanor crime and, like a DUI charge, can be upgraded to a felony crime in Florida once a person accumulates enough driving with a suspended license convictions.