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What Additional Penalties Could A Habitual Offender Face For Civil And Criminal Traffic Violations In Florida?

In both civil and criminal traffic matters, habitual offenders (sometimes referred to as habitualized drivers) are people who have multiple traffic violations. They face steeper penalties than offenders with less extensive records. If you are a habitual traffic offender, a traffic violation may lead to a mandatory license suspension or even a license revocation. Furthermore, they may find themselves facing more serious charges specifically because of their past violations. For instance, if your previous charges caused your license to be suspended and you are caught driving anyway, you could face an aggravated charge. This can turn a civil matter into a criminal matter, and a misdemeanor into a felony.

If you are a habitualized driver and get into trouble, there are several things an attorney can do to help. One thing an attorney can do is to look at the context behind your record and put it into perspective for the state, the court, and/or the judge.

Let’s say, for instance, that you were charged for driving with a suspended license some time ago, and opted to simply pay the ticket and move on. What you didn’t realize was that paying the ticket was an admission of guilt, which means the offense (driving on a suspended license) was added to your record. Let’s say you are then charged with another criminal traffic violation. Your previous violation, which is still on your record, makes you a habitualized offender. As mentioned above, this can aggravate (increase the severity) of your charges.

In that situation, an attorney can argue that when you paid the ticket, you didn’t understand that it was an admission of guilt. If argued successfully, this can lead to getting the initial guilty pleas vacated, and reopening the case to reduce or dismiss the charges. This retroactively “un-habitualizes” you, which allows you to deal with the standard charges for your current violation, rather than the aggravated charges. From there, your attorney can get your license back, and then work with the state and the judge to resolve your cases and keep you from being habitualized again.

What Is The Point Of Fighting A Traffic Ticket If A Police Officer Clocked My Speed?

My answer comes in the form of a pun: the point is avoiding points. Your goal is to avoid getting points on your license (and the accompanying raised premiums) if at all possible.

While a police officer clocking your speed can be a compelling piece of evidence, it is not unassailable or bulletproof. There are often technicalities in these tickets that attorneys know how to look for, which they can then use to challenge the clocked speed as a piece of evidence.

For example, in Florida, officers have to include the speed-measuring device they used to clock a driver’s speed in the body of the citation. They don’t always do that, and when they don’t, an attorney can often prevent the evidence from being used against you in court.

Finding those technicalities is the first part of what an attorney can do in this situation. They can then negotiate with the officer, the state, the court, and/or the judge to try to reduce the charges, including potentially reducing or eliminating specific penalties.

What Questions Should I Answer When Stopped By Law Enforcement? What If They Ask Me If I Know How Fast I Was Going Or If I Know I Am Doing Something Wrong?

The old attorney adage is, never talk to the police. They can and will use whatever you say to them against you down the road. If an officer asks you if you knew you were speeding or doing anything else wrong, do not confirm or admit anything.

I often represent clients who admitted that they were speeding or violating a regulation or law because of an officer’s question. Many of them were under the false impression that the admission can’t be used against them in court since the officer never read them their Miranda Rights. In fact, officers do not have to mirandize citizens for traffic stops, because they are assumed to be civil rather than criminal in nature.

So, to reiterate: don’t answer questions from the police, PERIOD.

Does The Officer Have To Tell Me Exactly Why I Was Stopped?

Yes, but not immediately. You will eventually get your ticket, and the ticket will tell you why you were stopped. They do not have to tell you why they stopped you when they initially walk up to the car.

Under What Circumstances Could A Person Have Their Driver’s License Revoked In Florida?

In Florida, there are many different violations and circumstances that can cause a person’s license to be revoked for a period of six months to life. Offenses that can lead to license revocation include, but are not limited to:

  • DUI Convictions: Any DUI conviction can lead to a license revocation. Certain severe DUIs carry mandatory revocation sentences. Specifically, 3rd DUI convictions within 10 years of your second offense carries a minimum 10-year revocation, while 4th DUI convictions within a lifetime carries mandatory license revocation.
  • Reckless Driving: Getting three reckless driving charges within one year can result in a license revocation.
  • Excess Points: If you are charged with three major offenses, or 15 offenses for which you receive points within a 5-year period, you may face license revocation.
  • Felony Drug Possession: Any felony conviction for drug possession can result in a license revocation, at the discretion of the court.
  • Hit and Run: If the vehicle you are driving is involved in a crash that causes death or personal injury and you do not stop to give help, you may face license revocation.
  • Vehicular Manslaughter: If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter (a less severe charge than vehicular murder), your license will be permanently revoked. If you have no DUI convictions and you qualify for very specific hardship terms, you may qualify for limited reinstatement after 5 years.
  • Vehicular Murder: If you are convicted of murdering someone with a motor vehicle, you face permanent mandatory license revocation.

Licenses can also be revoked for certain traffic offenses, especially cumulative offenses. For instance, if you get 12 points within a 12-month period, your license is suspended for a period of 30 days. If you keep driving on that suspended license, you can get more criminal charges. If you continue on that way, the charges will continue to pile up and get more severe. This can lead to your license being suspended far longer than the initial sentence, and ultimately can lead to your license being revoked entirely. Generally, I advise my clients never to drive on a suspended license to avoid getting stuck in that process.

What Are Some Possible Defenses To Civil And Criminal Traffic Violations In Florida?

When it comes to civil cases, the defenses are primarily based in technicalities. There aren’t many other defenses to civil and traffic infractions in Florida. These cases really come down to whether the state can prove your case or not. Technicality-based errors can undermine their ability to prove your guilt.

As an example of this type of defense, let’s say you were driving in Florida and ran a stop sign, which caused you to hit another car. At the scene of the accident, you were then issued a careless driving citation.

Being charged with careless driving is what’s known as a general statute, or a catchall provision. This means that if they don’t know what else to charge you with, they’ll charge you with careless driving. There is case law that can sometimes be used as a defense of general statutes like “careless driving” which says that if there’s a specific statute that officers or the state can charge, they cannot charge a general statute. In this case, while you were charged with careless driving, an attorney can argue that you should have been charged with the more specific statute of running the stop sign. This argument is sometimes enough to get the careless driving charge dismissed in court.

In criminal court, defenses look different. They are primarily focused on whether the officer did their job correctly or not.

Let’s use a DUI charge as an example. There are many very specific protocols that must be followed in order for a DUI investigation to be considered completely correct and admissible in court. Many officers are not trained properly in all of the nuances of DUI investigations, and might be overly confident in their abilities because they aren’t frequently called out for their mistakes. Experienced attorneys know how to carefully examine a DUI investigation, and will often be able to find faults and protocol violations that can be used as defenses against the charges.

Attorneys can also offer defenses for specific criminal and civil charges from case law. For example, there is a defense based on case law in Florida called a Crooks Motion, named after the defendant in the original case. It specifically deals with weaving vehicles, and states that an officer cannot pull you over simply for weaving within your lane. However, if they suspect you are intoxicated and notice you are weaving, they can pull you over. This can be used as a defense in cases where an officer does not indicate that he thought the person was intoxicated when they pulled them over, but rather only indicates that they saw the person weaving in their lane. Many similar specific case laws exist, and attorneys can both refer to the ones they know and find more obscure ones through legal research.

For all of these reasons, it makes the most sense to hire an attorney if you want a viable defense against traffic charges.

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) 474-5358 today.

Christopher Shaw, Esq.

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