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What Are Florida Traffic Court Records?
Florida traffic court records are the official documents of the Traffic Departments of Circuit and County Courts in the state. These records include citations and court documents. While law enforcement officers write traffic tickets, these citations are the beginnings of traffic court records produced during cases involving moving and parking violations.
Most traffic cases are handled by county courts in Florida. The Florida Court System establishes a county court in each of the 67 counties in the Sunshine State. These hear cases involving criminal misdemeanors. Circuit courts in the state may also have traffic divisions. There are 20 such trial courts in the state and they have jurisdiction over criminal cases involving traffic offenses.
Most Common Traffic Citations in Florida
The most common criminal traffic charge in Florida is DUI (driving under the influence). This offense requires a mandatory court appearance and is punished by fines, county surcharges, and/or jail term. Traffic infractions are less serious violations. Serious traffic violations in Florida include
- Reckless driving
- Running a red light
- Improper lane changes
- Driving without a valid license
- Failure to yield right of way
- Driving without license plates or with expired ones
- Driving or riding in a vehicle without wearing a seat belt
- Fleeing the scene of an accident
Besides court fines and surcharges, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also punish traffic violations with driver education courses and adding points to offenders’ licenses. Traffic tickets may also increase offenders’ auto insurance rates. Motorists that accrue certain points over specified periods of time may have their licenses suspended. Serious and frequent traffic violations leading to quick point accumulation may prompt the DMV to revoke the offender’s license. Failure to respond to a traffic ticket can also lead to license revocation.
The DMV has more stringent terms and punishments for drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL). For example, while the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for regular drivers is .08%, CDL holders have a BAC limit of .04%.
What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Florida
In Florida, ticketed motorists can respond to their citations in four ways:
- Pay the ticket
- Attend a driver improvement course
- Contest the ticket by pleading not guilty
- Enter a no-contest plea
Individuals with traffic citations have 30 days to choose one of these options. Paying a traffic ticket is the same as pleading guilty to the traffic charges listed on the citation. The amount to be paid is usually listed on the ticket. The offender also agrees to incur points on their driving record.
Choosing to attend a driver improvement course is a way to reduce points added to your driver’s license, keep auto insurance rates down, and avoid license suspension. However, you still have to pay your ticket even when selecting this option. To sign up, complete a Driver Improvement Course Affidavit Form and submit it with the Court Clerk’s office along with ticket payment. Offenders must complete this course within 30 – 60 days of approving their applications.
Enter a plea of not guilty to contest a traffic ticket. Do this at the court listed on the citation. Ticketed motorists who cannot appear in traffic courts for this plea must submit completed Affidavit of Defense and Admission of Waiver of Appearance form to the Clerk’s Office. When contest a traffic ticket in Florida, the defendant must prepare for a trial and may retain the services of an attorney.
Entering a plea of nolo contendere or no contest is a decision not to fight the traffic ticket and pay it. However, it differs from pleading guilty because the offender cannot be held liable in a future civil suit arising from the traffic offenses listed in their citation. Florida traffic courts only accept this plea for select traffic violations as well as failure to appear in court, to pay a traffic ticket, or attend a driver improvement course. To grant this plea, the petitioner must not have entered a similar plea in the last 12 months. Florida also insists that an offending motorist cannot plead nolo contendere more than three times in their lifetime.
How Do I Look Up My Florida Traffic Ticket?
Traffic ticket information is available from the offices of the Clerks of Court in the various counties of Florida. To enquire about a traffic citation, contact the Clerk of Court in the county where the ticket was issued. Visit the Florida Clerks of Court directory on the website of the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to find the contact information for the office you need to contact.
Florida traffic ticket information is also online on the websites of the Clerks of Court. Visit the case lookup search provided on the website of the Clerk of Court in the county where the violation occurred. You can pull up your traffic ticket by entering the citation number printed on it. Alternatively, search by name if you lost the traffic ticket.
Besides citation number, the search result will provide the following information about the ticket:
- Case number
- Case status
- Case type
- Date the ticket was filed
- Ticket amount
- Ticket payment due date
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How Do I Pay a Traffic Ticket in Florida?
Ticketed motorists can pay their traffic tickets online from the same search portals provided by Florida Clerks of Court. After searching for your traffic ticket on the Clerk’s website, look for additional links on the search result page. There is usually a payment link. Follow it to pay the traffic ticket with a credit or debit card.
In addition to online payment, most Florida Clerk’s Offices allow members of the public to also pay their traffic tickets in person, by mail, and over the phone. Credit/debit cards are usually accepted for phone payments while checks and money orders are accepted for mailed payments. To pay in person, visit the Clerk’s Office in the county where the ticket was issued. Cash, credit/debit card, check, and money order are accepted when paying for a Florida ticket at a Clerk’s Office.
What Is the Cost of a Florida Traffic Ticket?
In Florida, traffic ticket fines vary from county to county. While minor violations attract small fines, serious violations are fined larger amounts. Repeat offenses may incur surcharges in addition to fines. Check the issued ticket to find out the fine amount on a citation. Alternatively, look up the traffic ticket online to see the fine amount. It is also possible to find how much a traffic ticket costs by calling the Clerk’s Office in the county where it was issued.
Contesting a Florida Traffic Ticket
When you pay a traffic ticket, opt for a driver education course, or plead no contest, the citation stays on your driving record for some years. In Florida, uncontested citations stay on offenders’ records for 10 years while license suspensions stay on record for 7 – 11 years. Motorists with commercial driving licenses can expect serious traffic violations to remain on their records for 55 years while Florida keeps alcohol-related traffic violations on record for 75 years.
The only way to avoid having a traffic ticket on your record is fighting it in traffic court. If successfully contested, the ticket will be dismissed and will not contribute towards raising your auto insurance rate. Note that not every traffic ticket can be contested. Florida does not allow offenders to challenge parking tickets and moving citations involving criminal offenses. The first step to fighting a contestable Florida traffic ticket is by pleading not guilty in traffic court. You can submit this plea in person or in writing by mail. After submitting the plea, call or write the court to schedule a hearing.
Fighting a Citation in a Florida Traffic Court
There is no requirement to have a lawyer represent you in a Florida traffic court when contesting a ticket. However, having one improves the chances of dismissing the ticket or reducing fines and other punishments. Whether you choose to represent yourself or have an attorney, it is important to prepare for the trial. Start by gathering evidence and preparing your witness. It helps to study Florida traffic laws and the Florida Drivers Handbook.
During the traffic case, the Clerk of Court will hear from the officer who issued the ticket and you or your lawyer. The Clerk will also hear from witnesses and review all evidence before making a decision. If the Clerk finds you not guilty, the ticket will be dismissed. If Clerk reaches a guilty verdict, the court will state the fine, surcharges, court costs, and other penalties for the violations committed. Florida allows defendants found guilty in traffic cases to file appeals. Doing this requires setting another trial date with the Clerk and hiring a court reporter.