Getting a traffic ticket, for most people, doesn't happen every day. As a result, their ignorance about the process, leads to poor decision making, which in turn leads to something other than a dismissal.
Being a traffic attorney for over 17 years, I've seen hundreds of thousands of tickets, and since my goal on this blog is to educate, please allow me to explain how to read the traffic ticket you just received and hopefully, help you to get your ticket dismissed.
First of all, the technical term for a traffic ticket in Florida is a "Uniform Traffic Citation" or UTC for short. So if you decide to take your matter to court, you may want to sound like you know what you're talking about and refer to it as a Florida Uniform Traffic Citation and not just a "ticket."
Now, currently, we are in a transition in Florida where some tickets are still being written by hand by the officer (those are the yellow ones) and some are being generated by a computer and printer the officer has at the side of the road (those are the white ones).
No matter which type of Uniform Traffic Citation you receive, they operate the same way. They are essentially designed to put you on notice of what you've allegedly done wrong so that you can make a decision about how you wish to proceed.
As you know from reading this blog, when you get a traffic ticket in Florida, you have three choices:
You can pay the ticket and take the points (always a bad decision),
You can pay the ticket and elect traffic school (almost always a bad decision), or
You can fight the ticket (the only way to get it dismissed).
We've detailed in many previous posts why we think fighting the ticket is the best way to go. To that end, the first thing you MUST be able to do is read that ticket.
After noting your citation number (which is the big black series of numbers and letters), the first thing you should look at, and it is printed at the very top, is the county in which you received your ticket.
If you plan on contesting the ticket, you will need to know in which county you will be forced to appear. Just because you live in Palm Beach doesn't mean that's where the ticket will be heard. The courthouse within the county where your case will be heard, is determined by the clerk of court, not by you. Take note.
After that, your personal information appears on the ticket. What's important to look at here, is that the name and driver's license information is accurate. Unfortunately, minor errors or typos will not be enough to get a case dismissed, but many times we've seen tickets issued to a completely different person. I'm not exactly sure how it happens, but obviously the officer can get confused at the scene and give the wrong person the wrong ticket. In this instance, you must make sure to challenge the ticket on these grounds.
Moving on, the middle of the ticket is where things start to get interesting. It is here the officer will indicate what law you are charged with breaking. There are a series of checkboxes and lines for the officer to fill in details, as well as a spot for the actual Florida statute number.
This area represents the most important part of the ticket, because it is here where due process defenses are born. The state has a burden to inform you of what you've done wrong. It is extremely important that you scrutinize this portion of the ticket. We have gotten more tickets dismissed in my office because of mistakes in this area, than any other.
You can read many of the other posts here on this blog where I detail ways to get cases dismissed, but, suffice it to say, if the statute is missing, or incorrect, you should make a motion to the court and ask for a dismissal.
After that section, there is a spot for a signature. In the past, this was a huge area of dispute. The fine print, that no one bothered to read, was only saying that by signing the ticket, you agreed that the officer was handing you a piece of paper and that you promised to appear in court or take care of the matter. Unfortunately, many people took their signature to mean that they were agreeing with what was written on the ticket and refused to sign. Well, if you refused to sign, the officer could take you to jail and the entire situation became hostile and wasn't working out too well. Therefore, the requirement that you sign your ticket has been modified (See Florida Statute Here), only requiring a signature in certain situations.
Hopefully, this has given you some knowledge you can use the next time you receive a Florida Uniform Traffic Citation. If you are staring at your ticket, and still not sure what you're looking at, you can always ask one of the attorneys in my office to look at it and give you their opinion. We offer a free consultation, and are happy to make suggestions. We're here to help. Just call us at 800-489-4125.
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