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If The Court Finds Me Guilty, What Happens Next?

In civil court, the best-case scenario is usually getting a Withhold of Adjudication. As mentioned previously, a judge issuing this ruling is not technically finding you guilty, or is withholding the decision of guilt. This means that you get no points on your license and can’t have your insurance rates raised (except for if your insurance company had to pay damages to another driver as a result of the infraction).

If you get a Withhold of Adjudication in civil court, you will still be responsible for the relevant fines, and potentially going to traffic school for 4-12 hours. Still, you will be accomplishing your main prerogative, which is to avoid a guilty verdict without the qualification of a Withhold of Adjudication (and thereby avoiding getting points on your license and raised premiums.) In most cases, the cost of fines and court fees will fall far below the potential costs of increased premiums, especially over time.

In criminal court, if you are found guilty, there are a few potential outcomes depending on the severity of the offense. In some cases, you may be looking at jail time. The actual sentencing for these sorts of charges usually ranges between 10 days to a year in jail, but can be shorter or longer depending on the crime.

It is an attorney’s prerogative to keep clients out of jail, so I always approach criminal cases with that goal in mind. On a personal note, people who receive criminal traffic convictions are usually not hardened criminals. They are far more likely to be people who have jobs, families, kids, and responsibilities. They happened to have made traffic mistakes: maybe a DUI, maybe reckless driving. With the exception of DUIs with injuries or death and severe repeat DUIs, their crimes are almost always misdemeanors.

Many people don’t realize how imperative it is for people to avoid even short-term local jail sentences. While something like a 3-day sentence in local jail may seem inconsequential, it often has much longer-lasting consequences. Many people who find themselves with jail time on their records—however short—have a hard time keeping their job or finding a new job afterward, which can snowball into a series of much bigger problems.

As an experienced attorney in criminal traffic court, I know the most successful inroads to negotiating for my clients to avoid jailtime. In some cases, I can even negotiate to avoid jailtime when a mandatory minimum is on the table.

As an example, let’s say you’re driving on a suspended license for the third time, and you get caught. In Florida, that charge comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 days in jail. If you plead guilty to that charge, you will, in fact, spend 10 days in jail. However, if you hire a knowledgeable attorney, they can negotiate with the state on your behalf and try to avoid a guilty plea (as well jail time.) In this sort of case, an attorney can propose an amendment of the “driving on a suspended license” charge to what’s called a “no valid driver’s license” charge, which is basically the same offense, only without the 10-day mandatory minimum jail sentence. This is one way in which an attorney who truly knows the ins and outs of the system can help you deal with the state attorney’s office and potentially avoid jail time and the associated consequences.

I Received A Criminal Traffic Violation In Pinellas County But I Live In Another State. What Should I Do If I Want To Fight The Charge?

If you are an out-of-state driver charged with a criminal traffic violation, the first thing you should do is call a local attorney, specifically one who is familiar with Pinellas County traffic court. Since these cases involve potential license suspensions, steep fines, and jail time, you do not want to take them lightly.

Once you hire an attorney, they can negotiate with the state, look at discoveries, and see what your options are. Currently, due to COVID-19, almost all traffic court cases are held remotely over Zoom. The only exception is if you need to plead to a charge, which is generally still done in person. To an out-of-towner, this may sound like the beginning of an ordeal. However, if you have the right attorney, you may not need to make a live appearance at all.

Attorneys have many legal constructs at their disposal that they can use to get around many rules and requirements. This includes the mandatory court appearance to plead. To address the issue, we usually seek permission to submit pleas in absentia, which means writing out the plea in a legal document, getting it notarized, and agreeing to enter the plea remotely. Getting permission to file in absentia has been a significant boon to our out-of-state clients, who are relieved they don’t have to spend the time and money travelling back to Pinellas County just to plead. This is just one way that hiring an attorney for these matters can make all the difference.

I Have A Commercial Driver’s License And Got A Ticket In Hillsborough County. What Will This Do To My Driver’s License?

If you are a CDL driver, there are a few ways that a ticket may affect you. One major concern is getting points added to your license. Potential employers may be wary of hiring or keeping on any CDL drivers with a significant number of points, or any points at all, on their licenses. Drivers with license points are far more expensive to insure, since they have higher premiums to ostensibly support a larger amount of coverage. For instance, they may only be offered a $1 Million policy, when the average driver is only going to have to have a $20,000 or $30,000 policy. This quickly becomes untenable for employers. In this way, getting even a small number of points added to your license—say, for instance, 3 points, or even less—may result in you losing your job.

With that in mind, if you are a CDL driver who got a ticket, your main imperative is to find an attorney who can get the charges reduced. Specifically, you want to be able to reduce your charges such that they do not add points to your license and/or affect your insurance coverage.

In other contexts, our main method of avoiding license points is to seek a Withhold of Adjudication. However, getting a withhold can be much trickier for CDL drivers. This is because the federal system for CDLs doesn’t always support or accept withholding of adjudication for the purposes of avoiding points. A good attorney will try to solve this problem by negotiating with individual judges, who have the power to use their discretion to withhold points even while the federal system may discourage it. This is one of many ways that a CDL driver facing charges can benefit from the legal knowledge, relationships, and experience of an attorney.

For more information on Traffic Violations Cases in Florida, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (727) 478-4222 today.

Christopher Shaw, Esq.

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(727) 478-4222