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What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In Florida?

Traffic violations and infractions in the state of Florida are offenses that are associated with driving. In the state, traffic offenses are extensively divided into two groups based on the severity of the offense. The two groups are; violations and infractions.

Traffic violations are more serious than infractions and are termed as criminal offenses. These violations are also categorized as misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the severity of the violation. The penalty for a traffic violation may involve a prison term and fines. On the other hand, traffic infractions are minor traffic offenses that do not attract a prison term. Infractions are punishable by fines and other minor penalties, as provided by the Florida traffic laws.

What Are Felony Traffic Violations In Florida?

Felony traffic violations are the most serious types of traffic offenses in Florida. These offenses attract severe penalties, including imprisonment and hefty fines. Traffic offenses that result in serious injuries or threats of injury on victims and damages on vehicles and other properties are categorized as felony traffic violations. These violations carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.

DUI-related offenses are the most prevalent types of felony traffic offenses in Florida. Felony traffic violations vary in severity and may lead to short or long prison terms depending on:

  • The nature of the crime,
  • The culprit’s past convictions,
  • The number of points received under Florida’s driving point system,
  • Failure to pay traffic citations,
  • The presence of other mitigating or aggravating factors

For example, in a situation where an individual drive recklessly and unintentionally kills a person, the offense may be considered a felony.

Furthermore, frequent violations are also taken very seriously, and consequently, they attract more severe penalties. Florida has a three-strikes law, which means that offenders who have been convicted of a serious crime three or more times, will be penalized with greater punishments. While a first-time traffic violation may be classified as a misdemeanor in Florida, the same crime will be considered a felony if it is committed more than three times within five years.

The class of felony is what determines the penalties that each felony traffic violation will attract. Felonies are divided into five classes under the Florida criminal law

  • Capital Felonies: Punishable by a death penalty or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
  • Life Felonies: Punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Felonies of the First Degree: Punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Felonies of the Second Degree: Punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000
  • Felonies of the Third Degree: Punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000

In rare cases, most felony traffic violations are classified as felonies of the third degree as do not result in a jail term of more than five years or a fine of more than $10,000.

Examples Of Felony Traffic Violations In Florida?

Common examples of felony traffic violations in Florida include:

  • DUI or reckless driving with a prior traffic felony conviction
  • Driving with license suspended for the third time
  • Leaving an accident scene that involves serious property damage and injuries or casualties on the victim.
  • Vehicular manslaughter or homicide
  • Fleeing from a police officer when caught for a traffic violation

What Are Traffic Misdemeanors In Florida?

Traffic misdemeanors are less severe than felony traffic violations but more severe than traffic infractions. In most cases, a serious first-time traffic violation is charged as a misdemeanor; otherwise, it may be considered a felony. All traffic misdemeanors do not carry equal weight; some attract more penalties than others. The penalty of each offense is determined by the state legislature under the criminal code.

Traffic misdemeanors may involve a maximum prison term of one year. The penalty could also be as minimal as 60 days in prison or a probation term of 6 months. A fine may also be imposed on the offender as prescribed by the Florida statutes on fines Section 775.083. Depending on the gravity of the traffic misdemeanor and the presence of any prior convictions, the penalty of a traffic misdemeanor may either be more severe or less severe. For example, a traffic violation may attract more penalties if there are prior convictions or driving points.

For proper sentencing, all misdemeanor crimes in Florida are grouped into two degrees. In order of severity, these include;

  • Misdemeanor of the First Degree; punishment may be up to one-year probation or up to one-year jail term, and a fine of up to $1,000
  • Misdemeanor of the Second Degree: Punishable by jail term up to 180 days with or without a maximum fine of $1,000

Examples Of Traffic Misdemeanors In Florida?

Common examples of traffic misdemeanor crimes in Florida include:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Reckless driving without a prior conviction
  • Illegal stopping
  • Positioning harmful equipment on the road to cause physical damage or injury
  • Failure to stop and render assistance at an accident involving death or bodily injury
  • Failure to obey a traffic control signal

What Constitutes A Traffic Infraction In Florida?

A traffic infraction is a minor traffic offense that arises from the violation of certain traffic statutes and regulations. Traffic infractions are often referred to as “noncriminal traffic offenses.” Typically, traffic infractions are not punishable by a jail sentence by fines imposed through tickets or citations. The penalty for each traffic infraction is defined by Section 318.18 of the Florida statutes.

Traffic infraction offenders usually have a period of 30 days to respond to a traffic ticket in Florida. The offenders may respond to the ticket by any of the following ways;

  • Admit guilt, pay the ticket and accept the points that come with the ticket
  • Pay the ticket but avoid points by agreeing to take a driver improvement course
  • Fight the ticket in court

A person that cannot afford to pay a fine at once may be allowed by the court to take a driver improvement course and have 18 percent deducted from the fine or pay the fine in installments without any interest rates. However, the offender will have to pay the whole amount immediately on the default of a scheduled payment. An offender may be denied a driver’s license at the judge’s verdict even after all payments have been made.

There are two types of traffic infractions in Florida; these are moving violations and non-moving violations. A moving violation arises when a driver disobeys traffic laws while the vehicle is in motion. On the other hand, a non-moving violation arises when a driver disobeys traffic laws while the vehicle is not moving.

Examples Of Traffic Infractions In Florida?

Traffic infractions in Florida are classified into two based on the nature of the crime. They include moving and non-moving violations. Some examples of moving violations include;

  • Failure to yield right-of-way while turning
  • Failure to obey the high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane requirement
  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicles such as ambulance and sanitation vehicles
  • Failure to obey traffic control devices or signs
  • Failure to obey flashing control signals
  • Unlawful use of traffic signal
  • Failure to use a designated lane
  • Driving too close to another vehicle
  • Careless driving

Some examples of non-moving violations include;

  • Double parking
  • Improper stopping or parking
  • Obstructing entry to parking space
  • Leaving a running vehicle unattended to
  • Driving while driver’s view is blocked by material
  • Littering roads
  • Opening the vehicle’s door in a moving traffic
  • Operating a vehicle with unsafe equipment

How Does Traffic Ticket Work In Florida?

A traffic ticket or uniform traffic citation is a citation that is handed out by a law enforcement officer to an individual that commits a traffic infraction, an example being a speeding ticket. In Florida, a traffic ticket may only be dismissed by fighting the ticket in court. Hence, an offender may have to hire an attorney.

Fighting a ticket in court involves the following steps:

  • Write to the traffic court of the county where the ticket was issued to schedule a court hearing the ticket was issued. The letter to the clerk should include; mailing address, citation number, and phone number of the person
  • Prepare to give an actual recap on the incident that led to the issuing of the traffic ticket, while referencing the witnesses and evidence involved
  • Present the case at the court while stating justifiable reasons why the ticket should be dismissed. After this, the clerk will give a verdict that will determine if the ticket will be dismissed or not.

According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DHSMV), traffic tickets may be paid in person to the Clerk of Court in the county where the traffic offense occurred. The website of the FLHSMV has full information on the locations of the traffic court in each county. Fine payments may also be made online.

A speeding ticket is issued when a driver goes beyond the specified speed limit. It usually attracts a fine or suspension of the driver’s license, depending on the speed. A parking ticket is written to vehicles that violate the parking guidelines according to the State Statute or County Ordinance.

Moving violations are traffic violations that occur when a vehicle Is in motion while non-moving violations occur when a vehicle is not in motion. Non-moving violations may also occur while a vehicle is moving. Both types of violations are distinguished by the violation of certain traffic requirements that may not concern the vehicle’s movement. Examples of these include; license violations, parking violations, etc.

Florida has a point system that tracks traffic moving violations. Penalty points are recorded for each moving traffic violation that is committed, such as reckless driving, failure to yield, careless driving, etc. If a person accrues too many points within a specified period, such person’s license will be revoked or suspended.

The driver’s license of a person will be revoked if the person is arrested for a maximum of 15 offenses that carry points or three major traffic violations within five years. Twelve points in 12 months will lead to a 30 days license suspension, 18 points in 18 months will lead to 3 months license suspension, and 24 points in 36 months will lead to 12 months license suspension.

Are Driving Records Public In Florida?

Driving records in Florida are public records and may be obtained by eligible persons as provided by the Florida public records law. However, the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) prevents the disclosure of sensitive and confidential information on driving records. Therefore, personal information such as driver’s license or ID card number, social security number, and residence address of the person whose information is on the record is protected. The information that is disclosed in driving records includes license type, violations, sanctions, and driving history.

The following persons can obtain a driving record in Florida;

  • The person whose information is on the record
  • Those with a written consent signed by the individual mentioned in the record
  • A potential employer
  • The insurance company of the person whose information is on the record
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Private investigative agents/agencies
  • Anyone with a court order

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How To Find Driving Records In Florida?

Florida driving records are maintained and disseminated by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle (DHSMV). Eligible persons may obtain a 3-year, 7-year, or complete driver’s records depending on the record of interest. Traffic offenses stay on a person’s record for a period of 3 to 5 years for minor offenses and 10 to 15 years for more severe offenses. Alcohol-related offenses stay on driving records for up to 75 years.

Driver’s records in Florida may be obtained through any of the following methods;

  • Online viewing of the status of a driver’s license at no expense by using the Online Driver License Check portal
  • Mail-in request submitted alongside the prescribed fee and a fully completed and signed driver license record request form
  • In-person requests at a driver’s license service center, or court clerks that provide this service at a prescribed fee

Mail-in requests should be to the address below;

Bureau of Records

2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 52

Tallahassee, Florida 32399–0575

The prescribed fee may include an additional $6.25 tax collector convenience fee. The fees for obtaining driving records are as follows;

  • Crash reports - $10.00
  • 3-year driver history records - $8.00
  • 7-year, complete, or certified driver history records - $10.00
  • Florida administrative weekly publications for dealers - $75.00

Note, Money orders and checks should be made payable to the Division of Motorist Services. Requests are usually processed within ten business days.

Can Traffic Violations And Infractions Be Expunged/sealed In Florida?

Records of traffic violations and infractions in Florida may be expunged or sealed. However, not all traffic violations can be removed from records. Only the following persons are eligible to have their records expunged or sealed as defined by section 943.059 of Florida statutes;

  • Persons that are not under court supervision as a result of an alleged criminal activity to have records sealed.
  • Persons that have never had a prior sealing or expunction of similar traffic violations.
  • Persons that were not charged for severe traffic violations.
  • Persons whose charges were dismissed or the offender was not convicted.
  • Persons who were found “not guilty” after court hearings

In Florida, traffic violations that do not fall in any of the above categories may not be sealed or expunged. The process of sealing or expunging traffic violations begins with obtaining an eligibility certificate from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). After which the offender may appeal to the local court to have the traffic crime record sealed or expunged. The entire process of expungement or sealing of traffic violations in Florida takes about seven months to be completed.

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