Careless driving tickets are usually given out when someone is involved in an accident. It's the "catch all" used by officers who arrive on the scene and look at the damage and determine who should get the ticket for their "careless" driving.
The reality is, the person who received a Florida careless driving ticket may not have deserved it all, and for 3 reasons, we always recommend fighting them.
1) The police officer probably didn't witness the accident
2) Your word against another individual (not a police officer)
3) Accident reports are not admissible in court in Florida
The first, and without a doubt, single biggest reason to always fight your careless driving ticket is because in almost every situation, the police officer didn't witness the accident. THIS IS HUGE.
Because the officer did not witness the accident, the officer cannot testify in court as to exactly what happened.
Who can testify? Anyone who may have seen or heard something. That's it.
So when an officer shows up in court, they are usually asked one question by a traffic attorney representing their client. "Officer, did you witness the accident?" When the officer answers "no," they can't really testify to anything else in the case that can hurt the defendant.
The next reason is an outflow of the first reason. If the officer can't testify to exactly what caused the accident, the state is left with the other person(s) involved in the accident or any other witnesses who stuck around to give their name to the police officer.
This is great for a traffic attorney for the simple reason that most police officers testify in court all the time. They are professionals and they know the elements of the charge that are necessary for the ticket to stick. On the other hand, most individuals are nervous when they have to testify. Most people do not fully understand what they are testifying to in court and the importance of certain pieces of information that are critical to the state being able to make its case.
Being able to put the defendant behind the wheel is something that officers are taught to do when testifying in court because without that information, the judge cannot assume the defendant was the one driving. Because, as previously stated, the officers generally arrive on the scene when both parties are out of their cars, the officer cannot testify as to who was driving and most people forget that in their testimony. A good traffic attorney will seize on that to get the matter dismissed.
An unwritten law in traffic court that also applies here and helps defendants who fight careless driving tickets, is that an officer's word is practically unquestioned by the judge. For a variety of reasons, it is just assumed that the officer is telling the truth and has no reason not to tell the truth. However, because there is no officer testifying, the defendant is on equal grounds with his/her accuser. This is an often overlooked benefit to fighting careless driving tickets.
Lastly, many people call my office and are very upset because of what the accident report states. It isn't until I tell them that accident reports are not admissible in court and cannot be used against them, that they begin to calm down. Florida Statute 316.066 clearly states that "no such report or statement shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal."
So without an accident report, without a police officer testifying against them, and only another individual who may or may not have actually seen what happened and have the ability to relay the story 4-6 months later with enough detail to overcome a "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" standard; it should be very clear why careless driving tickets are among the most often dismissed tickets in our office and should always be fought.
If you have a careless driving ticket (or any other type of traffic matter) and would like a free consultation, please send me an email at email@example.com or call my office at 800-489-4125.