Articles Posted in Traffic Infractions

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 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.

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.

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.

Florida gives out more speeding tickets than any other state, according to a recent article at referring to a study done by the National Motorist Association. Georgia is second. The Florida state trooper interviewed for the article indicated that they do not specifically target speeders, but we have written on this blog about how states will step up enforcement of traffic tickets to raise money, particularly when economic times are bad.

When a person gets a ticket for speeding or another moving violation, it can affect him/her in various ways. First, there is a fine that goes along with any traffic ticket. If the judge adjudicates the person guilty for the traffic violation, points will be added to the person’s driving record. Insurance companies see these points and may raise insurance rates. Additionally, if a person accumulates too many points in a specific period of time, the DMV will suspend his/her driving privileges.

We receive calls from people who have received various traffic citations. We can schedule a hearing and request that the judge reduce the fine and/or withhold adjudication on the violation so no points are added to the driving record. If successful, a person can avoid the risk of a license suspension and increased insurance premiums that go along with points on a driving record.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill into law that allows cities and counties in Florida to have red light cameras as a way to enforce traffic laws. The cameras are set up at various intersections and take a picture of the vehicles and license tags when drivers run red lights at those intersections. Citations with the fines for those violations are then sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.

Prior to this bill, Florida neither allowed nor prohibited such cameras, but the DOT did not allow red light cameras at intersections on state roads. Fifty counties and cities already have these red light cameras in place. The new law provides that a ticket for running a red light caught on camera would cost $158.

It is not surprising that Florida is approving of this law now. Revenue from the red light camera citations is estimated to be as much as $100 million for Florida by 2014 at a time when all states are struggling to raise money.

We have read several articles on the Internet about police and Florida Highway Patrol officers stepping up efforts to stop people speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (aka drunk driving, DUI and DWI) in the Jacksonville, Florida area this weekend. Keep in mind that police come out in force on such holiday weekends and make many more traffic stops and arrests than on an ordinary weekend.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence, every question he/she asks and everything he/she does from that point forward will be designed to obtain evidence against you to support the DUI case. For some reason, a lot of people think it is a good idea to answer questions about whether he/she has had anything to drink that night and if so, how many drinks. Unless the answer is zero, answering this question will only serve to help the state prove the DUI case against you. The same goes for the field sobriety tests. A person fails the DUI field sobriety tests when the police officer says so. It is a subjective test. And this is the same police officer who already has it in his/her head that you are drunk or he/she would not have asked you to perform the field sobriety tests in the first place.

Obviously, the best plan is to either not drink or get a ride with a friend or a taxi if you have been drinking. But, if you have been pulled over and the police officer is asking questions relating to a DUI or any other crime, understand that you have a Constitutional right to remain silent. If you decide to waive that right and answer questions, your answers will be used against you.

This year, the Florida legislature will be reviewing a proposed bill that would set statewide standards for cameras at intersections that take pictures of the license plates of vehicles that run red lights. Once the picture is taken of a vehicle that allegedly ran a red light, a traffic ticket is automatically mailed to the owner of the vehicle. Legislation regarding standards for red light cameras have been before the Florida legislature several times before, but they have not been able to agree on how to split the revenues.

We see a few problems with red light cameras. First, the ticket goes to the owner of the vehicle, but it is not clear what happens when the owner is not the person driving the vehicle when it goes through a red light. Does the state or county have to prove that the owner was driving or does the owner have to prove that he/she was not driving?

Additionally, as criminal defense lawyers, we represent many people who have been charged with the crime of driving with a suspended license. This can be a serious crime that results in jail time and a longer driver’s license suspension if a person gets multiple convictions. Many people have their licenses suspended without knowing it and do not find out until they are stopped by the police. If a vehicle owner is sent a ticket but does not receive it because it got lost in the mail or he/she changed addresses, that person may have his/her license suspended without knowing it. One could see how the system does not function properly resulting in a lot of people facing potential driving with a suspended license charges without knowing it until they are stopped by police and arrested.

A new proposed law is going to the Governor that would allow police officers in Florida to pull drivers over for failing to wear their seat belts. Of course, it is already a violation of the traffic laws for a person to drive without wearing his/her seat belt. However, it is currently considered a secondary violation, as opposed to a primary violation. If a violation is considered secondary, a police officer cannot stop a driver based on that violation alone; the officer can only ticket the driver for a secondary violation if the police officer has probable cause to believe the driver committed a primary violation first, such as speeding or running a red light.

Under the new law, a police officer can stop a driver and give him/her a traffic ticket for the seat belt violation alone. What implications does this have for criminal defense lawyers? Failing to wear a seat belt is not a criminal offense; it is a civil infraction, and this new law will not change that. However, as criminal defense attorneys know, traffic violations are often the starting point for criminal investigations into drug crimes and gun crimes. Police in Jacksonville, Florida and other parts of Florida will pull a driver over that they consider suspicious and use a traffic infraction as the basis for the stop. The police officer will then proceed to ask questions and initiate an investigation looking for illegal drugs or guns or other evidence of criminal activity. This new law may give police officers another basis to stop drivers who are driving appropriately but are not wearing their seat belts.

Of course, any time a police officer pulls a driver over and conducts a search for drugs, guns or other evidence, criminal defense lawyers will look closely into whether the police officer had a legal basis to stop the vehicle and conduct the search. But be aware that, assuming this law passes, there is one more good reason to wear your seat belt.

What is the purpose of police giving traffic tickets to drivers? To encourage people to drive safely or to make money for the local government? Many people in Jacksonville, Florida and other cities have suspected that the police are supposed to issue a certain number of traffic tickets a month or year. These requirements are referred to as quotas and would suggest that revenue plays a major role in how many traffic tickets police give to drivers.

A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis looked at the correlation between poor economic conditions and the issuance of traffic tickets. Not surprisingly, the study found that significantly more tickets are issued in years after which a city’s revenue has declined. Specifically, the study found that a 10% decrease in revenue growth for the government in the prior year results in a 6.4% increase in the growth rate of traffic tickets. The study concluded that police give traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue rather than as a tool to increase driver safety on the roads.

Florida is one of twenty states that has proposed legislation that would make it illegal to drive while talking on a handheld cell phone. Florida legislators cite evidence and articles suggesting that when a driver is talking on his/her cell phone, it can be as distracting and dangerous as a person driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. There are currently five states that have enacted a law banning handheld cell phone use while driving. Other states are also considering derivations of this law to ban driving while using a text message device and/or a hands free cell phone device.

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