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Besides speeding tickets, law enforcement officers issue Civil Infraction citations for several different reasons. The citation could be issued in conjunction with a traffic crash investigation, or it can be issued if the law enforcement officer observes some action which could be construed as a violation of a traffic law. Despite common belief, there are more issues at stake in some Civil Infraction cases than just a fine and the assessment of points. The maximum sentence for a Civil Infraction in the State of Florida provides for a possible Driver License Suspension. A person’s driver license is normally not suspended in a Civil Infraction case, but Courts do have the authority to do so, and will suspend a motorist’s license if the facts and circumstances involved in the case call for it. The more notable Civil Infraction charges are listed below.

A. Civil Infractions Requiring a Court Appearance – Certain Civil Traffic Infractions deal with violations with such serious circumstances that the Florida Legislature has denoted that an individual must appear in court and cannot merely pay the citation or attend a Driver Improvement school. These violations include citations issued in conjunction with a traffic crash investigation involving a Death or Serious Bodily Injury, an alleged Excessive Speed of thirty (30) miles per hour over the posted limit, Passing a Stopped School Bus, Failing to Secure a Load, and operation of a Motorcycle in a manner that is not allowed by law (wheel stands or other stunts). It is generally these charges that will cause a Judge or Hearing Officer to consider harsher sanctions if the motorist is convicted, therefore, it is highly advisable for a person charged with this type of citation to obtain the advice and assistance of an experienced attorney.

B. Traffic Crash Citations (Violation of Right of Way, Careless Driving, Failure to Use Due Care, etc.) – Since the primary witness on behalf of the State in these cases is not a law enforcement officer, these cases tend to be the most hotly contested in court. Over my career, I have only come across a “handful” of crash cases where a law enforcement officer actually witnessed the crash. Most of the time, the Officer’s role in the case is strictly as an investigator. In cases involving a serious bodily injury or death, the Officer probably takes an active role of an investigator and conducts several measurements, takes pictures, and possibly creates a reconstruction of the events leading up to the crash. However, in most cases an Officer who appears at a crash scene without serious bodily injury or death will usually only organize the exchange of information between the parties, and possibly won’t even issue a traffic citation. Under the circumstances where a citation is issued, organization of a defense and understanding of the requirements of traffic laws are vital for a person’s defense. Thus, an individual’s chances of success are greatly improved in court if they are represented by experienced counsel.

C. Violation (or Avoidance) of a Official Traffic Control Device – There are many traffic control devices that we encounter during our everyday life. Law enforcement officers are constantly monitoring these devices for potential violators. A citation issued for a violation of this type is difficult to defend in traffic court based upon facts alone. Merely offering contrary testimony to an Officer in court rarely results in a Not Guilty finding. However, these kind of cases do have technical issues that can be exploited to a potential win. These issues are not readily apparent to anyone without knowledge and experience in the field of traffic law.

The most important point that you have to consider is that besides your own bona fide belief that you are not guilty of a traffic citation based upon the facts of your case, there may be technical reasons why your Civil Infraction case can be dismissed in court. An experienced attorney with extensive knowledge of traffic laws can assist you greatly in exploring the possibility of these additional defenses.

Despite common belief, points don’t just “fall off” a person’s driving record when the motorist completes a state approved Driver Improvement school. The only way an individual can avoid points assessed against their driving record without appearing in court is by Traffic School Election. Under Fla. Stat. §318.14 (9) provides that any person may elect to attend and complete Driver Improvement School in exchange for a Withhold of Adjudication (no point disposition on your record). However, the election must be made by the Clerk’s Office prior to the disposition of the case. If a traffic school election is made, a completion certificate must be submitted to the Clerk of Court within Sixty (60) days, or the election will be deemed as “illegal”. Illegal elections are the worst of both worlds because it results in a suspension of a persons driving privilege, additional fees to restore that person’s license, and a point assessment on their driver license record. The Court can review this matter and award a motorist relief, but this can only be done by the filing of a Motion. An experienced lawyer could help you in filing such a motion.

It is important to note that you cannot remove points already assessed against your record by simply attending Driving School.

It is also important to note that a driver who currently holds a commercial driver license cannot take advantage of this process. Thus, a person with a Class A, B. or C commercial driver license can only go to court if they wish to avoid having a conviction for a Civil Infraction entered against their record.

Further yet, an individual issued a Civil Infraction which requires a Mandatory Court Appearance, cannot take advantage of this process as well.

Rick Silverman - Traffic Attorney