When flashing blue lights appear in your rear-view mirror while driving in Florida, there is a strong likelihood that police believe you have broken one or more of the state’s 100-plus traffic laws. Traffic violations are the primary reason police activate their blue lights and pull motorists over, and police issue more than 2.5 million motor vehicle-related citations every year.
Other than defending against DUI charges, statistics suggest that most Florida motorists do not contest traffic-related charges. While it may seem worth accepting a fine to avoid the aggravation of going to court, the criminal defense professionals at Tallahassee’s Akbar Thomas Law will advise you that this approach can sometimes prove shortsighted. Read on to learn more about the top traffic violations and whether you should seek legal help for your traffic violation.
According to the latest Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics, Florida police issued 2,637,069 traffic citations in 2022, of which 24,242 were issued in Tallahassee’s Leon County. Of the statewide citations, 322,019 were classified as criminal, with 105,996 driving while license suspended or revoked charges representing the most common violation. This was followed by about 95,000 driving with expired license charges and just over 44,000 DUI-related charges.
Florida police agencies issued just over 1.7 million citations for non-criminal moving violations in 2022. The most common offense was speeding, with almost 682,000 citations, followed by running a red light, with over 250,000 citations. Of nearly 590,000 non-moving infractions, displaying an expired license tag was the most common, at just over 194,000, followed by about 130,000 citations for failing to have proof of insurance.
As the previous section shows, Florida uses several categories to characterize traffic violations. These categories describe whether the violation occurred while the vehicle was moving or not, distinguish between criminal and non-criminal violations, and further characterize criminal violations as either misdemeanor or felony.
In general, non-moving violations are never charged as criminal offenses and are considered infractions under the law, subject to adjudication in the state’s traffic courts rather than criminal courts. As an infraction, motorists have the option to admit guilt of the offense by paying off the ticket rather than attending traffic court. In fact, motorists only attend traffic court if they intend to contest the charges.
Many moving violations are also treated as infractions subject to paying a fine or contesting the ticket in a traffic court hearing. As with non-moving violations, fines represent the primary penalty meted out by traffic court, though many moving violation infractions also impose demerit points on your driver’s record. Not only do demerit points allow insurance companies to raise your premiums, but accumulating more than 12 within a given time period can result in driver’s license suspension.
Several moving violations—DUI, hit and run, racing, reckless driving, etc.—are automatically charged as a criminal offense, subject to criminal court rather than traffic court. In some cases, police may upgrade a standard moving violation infraction to a criminal offense status. For example, police have the option to charge speeding as an infraction or a criminal offence depending on how much over the limit the driver was speeding and the extent to which the driving conditions made it unsafe.
Only a few traffic offenses, such as third-time DUI and leaving the scene of an accident in which people were killed or injured, can be charged as a felony. Whether the traffic violation is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, know that the criminal courts can impose much more severe penalties than traffic courts allow. A misdemeanor traffic offense conviction can carry up to a year in jail and hefty fines, while a felony conviction may lead to a five-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
Given the potentially severe penalties that criminal courts can hand down, anyone facing criminal traffic offense charges should seek out the services of a skilled traffic violations defense lawyer. With intimate knowledge of Florida’s traffic laws and courtroom experience, defense lawyers specializing in traffic violations know how to navigate the court system to secure favorable outcomes such as dismissed charges, reduced charges, and acquittals.
Those facing non-criminal traffic violation charges in traffic court may also want to contest the charges with the help of a competent defense lawyer, especially if they feel that they have been unjustly charged. While the cost of a traffic violation attorney may seem high, financial penalties for a guilty finding go beyond the monetary fine to include demerit points that can jeopardize driving privileges and significantly boost the cost of insurance premiums.
If you’ve been charged with a traffic violation in the Tallahassee, Florida area, the experienced defense attorneys at Akbar Thomas Law can help strategize the best means of contesting the charges. To learn more, consult with us today at 850-383-0000.