Florida has adopted state-wide statutes to make traffic laws uniform throughout all the different counties. However, that doesn’t always mean that these laws are interpreted and enforced the same way in each county.
Since so many criminal traffic cases are handled at the county level, it is important to understand how judges in the county where the offense occurred are likely to apply the law to a set of circumstances.
While traffic violations may seem less important than other areas of criminal law, the penalties for criminal traffic violations can be severe and have a tremendous impact on everyday life.
If you have been charged with a traffic violation in West Palm Beach, it is wise to consult with an experienced West Palm Beach traffic lawyer who can advise you of the best steps to take in your particular situation.
Essentially, Florida law divides traffic violations into two types, criminal and civil. The civil offenses are considered less serious under the law and often involve assessment of a fine and possibly an assessment of points against the driver’s license or attendance of driving school.
Examples of civil violations, many of which are referred to as “moving violations,” include making illegal turns, violating speed limits, failing to obey traffic signals (stop signs, red lights), failure to use due care or following another vehicle too closely. Often, drivers receiving civil traffic citations will have their cases heard before a non-criminal traffic magistrate. Criminal traffic violations can subject the offender to arrest and criminal penalties imposed by a criminal judge. Drivers charged with a criminal traffic offense are required to appear in criminal court and face either misdemeanor or even felony penalties.
Some of the most common violations a West Palm Beach traffic lawyer can assist with include:
• Driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances
• Leaving the scene of an accident with damage or injuries
• Hit and Run
• Reckless driving
• Driving with knowledge that the license has been suspended
• No valid driver’s license
• Unlawfully attaching tag
• Expired tag (greater than six months)
But there are numerous other offenses outlined in chapters 322 and 316 of the Florida Statutes that a traffic attorney in West Palm Beach may be able to assist with. The statutes dealing with the operation of motor vehicles, issuance of driver’s licenses and related areas include many hundreds of requirements and regulations.
For instance, many people may not realize that it is a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly allow their driver’s license to be used by another (See 322.32(2)). Anyone who does so could face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.
The basic penalties for criminal traffic offenses are set forth in Sections 775.082 and 775.083 and of the Florida criminal code.
• For a second degree misdemeanor such as knowingly driving with a suspended license (first offense), the penalty includes up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Florida Statutes section 322.34.
• For a first degree misdemeanor such as reckless driving causing property damage, the penalty includes up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Florida Statutes section 316.192.
• For a third degree felony such as driving as a habitual traffic offender, the penalty includes up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000
• For a second degree felony such as DUI manslaughter, the penalty includes up to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
In addition, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles may suspend or revoke the license of offenders. Other requirements may be imposed such as the performance of community service or the use of an ignition interlock device.
Traffic laws are complex and the consequences for convicted offenders can have a huge impact.
A knowledgeable West Palm Beach traffic lawyer will know how the laws apply to the specific facts of your case and can provide advice and representation to bring about the best possible resolution in your case. Contact our office today.