If you are like most adults, you will receive a speeding ticket at some point in your life. According to Traffic Ticket Secrets: Speeding Ticket Facts, approximately 100,000 adults in the United States receive a speeding ticket on any given day, and one in six drivers will receive a speeding ticket during any given year. The average speeding ticket will cost $150, meaning more than $6 billion is received by counties and states across the nation every single year. Additionally, all those speeding tickets result in rising insurance rates—to the tune of $37 billion in extra insurance Americans are paying as the direct result of speeding tickets. The vast majority (80-90%) of Floridians who receive a speeding ticket will simply write a check, drop it in the mail, and vow to avoid another speeding ticket—or at least not get caught next time. Of those who send in their check and put the issue behind them, most have no idea what they have just done. Paying your speeding ticket means you have just pled “guilty” to the offense of speeding—and received three or more points on your driving record.
What Determines Whether You Receive a Ticket?
Despite the stereotype of the pretty young woman flirting her way out of a speeding ticket, this is rarely the case. Other than when a police department receives a federal grant for speed enforcement, it is generally left up to the discretion of the police officer whether you will receive a ticket and there are a few things that might help you out. If your driving record is clean and you have a valid driver’s license, registration and insurance documents, the officer is more likely to let you go with a warning. If you have prior speeding tickets, you are less likely to get a pass. If you have a (true) excuse, then it might be worthwhile to offer it, however police officers have heard literally every excuse in the books. Being polite—as opposed to be belligerent and calling the officer names—can make the difference between a ticket and a warning.
Florida Statutory Penalties for Speeding Fifteen to Nineteen Miles Over the Posted Speed Limit
If you are driving fifteen to nineteen miles above the speed limit, the officer is less likely to cut you any slack—after all, five, six, seven or even eight miles over the speed limit can be attributed to a little inattention or driving with the flow of traffic, but driving fifteen to nineteen miles over the speed limit can be harder for the officer to excuse. Your fine for the offense of driving fifteen to nineteen miles above the speed limit will likely be in the range of $250-$400. Although each Florida county has some discretion in setting fines and surcharges (court-associated fees), the fines are somewhat standard across the state. If you simply pay your speeding ticket, not only have you just spent a significant amount of money, you have added four points to your driving record. Those four points may not sound like much, but if you have had other tickets within the past year, they could add up, leading to a potential driver’s license suspension.
The Different Ways You Can Handle Your Speeding Ticket
Once you receive a speeding ticket, you have only thirty days to take care of it, whatever decision you make. Your options are basically:
- Pay the ticket
- Enroll in traffic school
- Go before a judge on your own and plead your innocence
- Go before a judge with an experienced Florida traffic ticket attorney by your side
The first option—paying the ticket—may seem like the path of least resistance. After all, once you drop the check in the mail, you can put the ticket behind you and move on with your life—or can you? You will have four points added to your permanent driving record and will likely see a significant increase in your vehicle insurance premiums. If you have sufficient points, your insurance company may cancel your coverage altogether, and it can be extremely difficult to find another company who will insure you once you’ve been cancelled. You could enroll in traffic school, but only once per year, and only five times throughout your entire lifetime. If you are eligible to enroll in traffic school, your speeding ticket will not be dismissed, however once you successfully complete the course the points you would have received on your driving record will be dropped. Even so, you will be obligated to pay the same traffic ticket fines and fees as you would have had you not taken the course. You will also have to pay for the driving course which may cost $25 or more. Remember that driving school to reduce points on your driving record are available only for non-criminal moving violations. If you only have a learner’s license you can avoid a conviction by taking a basic driver improvement course. If you are a CDL license holder, you will not be able to have the points dismissed by taking traffic school. You can go before a judge and plead your case on your own, however many find this an incredibly intimidating prospect. Not only will you have to take time away from work, school, or other obligations, you will also have to have at least a working knowledge of Florida traffic laws in order to successfully defend yourself, as well as a well-prepared case. Additionally, you will need to know which questions to ask the arresting officer, related to his or her training in using the type of speed detector used, as well as questions related to the actual traffic stop. Generally speaking, judges are not all that open to listening—and believing—excuses from the person who was issued a speeding ticket. The judge likely has at least a working relationship with the police officer therefore is more inclined to believe the officer’s account. Finally, you could go before a judge with a well-prepared, experienced Florida traffic ticket attorney by your side who has a solid knowledge of Florida traffic laws as well as a relationship with court personnel. Of all your options, this is the most likely one to leave you with a positive outcome following the issuance of your speeding ticket. Having an attorney by your side shows you are taking your speeding ticket seriously and that you have every intention of fighting the charges. You and your attorney will present a polished, professional front with a result of a possible dismissal of your ticket altogether, or at the very least, a much better resolution than you achieve by using the other methods of taking care of your speeding ticket.
How Your Speed Was Measured
One major key to challenging your speeding ticket is to understand the method the officer used to determine your speed. Your Florida traffic ticket attorney will obtain a copy of the officer’s notes prior to your trial in order to determine which method was used. There are five basic methods of speed detection:
- Pacing occurs when a police officer follows or “paces” a suspected speeder, using his or her own speedometer to clock the suspect’s speed. The officer must stay a specific—and constant—distance between the police vehicle and the suspect’s car for at least 2/10ths of a mile, although most police officers will follow for a “reasonable” distance in order to increase the effectiveness of their testimony at your trial. Your Florida traffic ticket attorney may be able to show that hills, curves, traffic lights and stop signs prevented the officer from pacing you for a sufficient distance, or that the officer’s pacing speed was actually a “catch up” speed—not your actual speed. For an officer to accurately pace, he or she must have good depth perception as well as sufficient training, and must be able to 1)maintain a steady distance at a steady speed, 2)watch the odometer to determine he has paced you for a sufficient amount of time and 3) watch out for other traffic on the road.
- Aircraft speed detection occurs when a ground patrol unit is alerted to your speed by a radio report from an airplane, and is mostly used in states which have lots of wide-open highway. Your speed may be calculated by timing how long it takes for your vehicle to travel between two fixed highway points at a premeasured distance apart. If you are found to be speeding by the aircraft, a waiting ground patrol car is notified; if your speed is not independently verified by the ground patrol car, your Florida traffic ticket attorney may be able to challenge your speeding ticket in court. Should the pilot appear in court, but the ground patrol officer not appear, your case may be dismissed.
- VASCAR (Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder) is really nothing more than a stopwatch controlled electronically by a calculator. The calculator divides the distance your vehicle travels by the time it took you to travel that distance. VASCAR is unlike either radar or laser as there is no instant readout of your speed garnered by simply pushing a button on a “gun.” VASCAR is much more susceptible to human error, as it is dependent on the officer pushing the button to start the stopwatch at the exact instant your car passes the first pre-determined marker (for example, two signs with the distance between them already calculated) then pushing the button again as soon as you pass the second marker. Your Florida speeding ticket attorney may be able to challenge whether the officer accurately saw your car—from a distance—pass the two points, the officer’s reaction time, or the accuracy of the odometer on the officer’s car if the VASCAR is tied in with the odometer.
- Radar is possibly the most commonly used method of speed detection and uses radio waves reflected off a moving object to determine its speed. When the radar waves bounce off your car, they are picked up and amplified by a receiver, then reflected in a speed-readout device. While radar signals can be bounced of stationary or moving vehicles, they cannot bend around a curve or over a hill, meaning you must be in the officer’s line of sight. While officers don’t necessarily have to be certified to operate a radar gun, it could reflect badly on them in court if they haven’t had some sort of training in order to accurately operate the device under all sorts of road and weather conditions. Your Florida traffic ticket attorney may be able to challenge the officer’s skill in operating the radar gun, plus the officer may not realize that at a distance of a few hundred feet, a radar beam is wide enough to cover four lanes of traffic—meaning the officer may or may not have clocked your speed. Inclement weather can also affect the radar beam to some extent, so if your ticket was issued during extremely windy or rainy weather, then your speed may not have been accurately registered.
- Laser speed detection is also widely used. Built to look and act like a hand-held radar gun, the laser detector uses a low-powered laser light beam which bounces off your vehicle, returning to the unit. The unit will then electronically calculate the speed of your vehicle. Laser detectors are believed to be much more accurate than radar due to the narrower beam which can be more precisely aimed. The laser detector measures the distance between the gun and your car, based on the time it takes the light beam to reflect off your vehicle and return to the laser gun. The laser detector can make approximately forty of these distance measurements in a mere third of a second. There is room for operator error with the laser gun, particularly when the officer does not hold the gun on the same part of the car for the duration of the test.
Defenses Your Florida Traffic Ticket Attorney May Use
Of course the tactic your Florida traffic attorney takes will be dependent upon the facts of your case, but there are some general defenses which may apply to your situation:
- You actually were not going the speed the officer claims
- You were going faster than the posted speed limit, but the road and weather conditions warranted the excess speed
- You were going faster than the posted speed limit, however it was necessary to avoid serious injury such as an accident, mechanical problems or unanticipated illness.
- If your speed was measured by radar, your attorney may be able to show that the radar bun picked up another vehicle or that there were interfering surfaces such as metal traffic signs, utility lines, power stations or multiple vehicle in your vicinity at the time your speed was clocked.
- If your speed was measured with a laser or radar gun, your attorney may be able to challenge the officer’s skill and training in using the gun as well as whether the machine was recently calibrated and has a history of proper maintenance.
- If your speed was measured using pacing, VASCAR or aircraft, there are a variety of challenges available to your Florida traffic attorney on your behalf.
- If you drive a car which resembles many others on the road, your attorney may be able to claim mistaken identity.
Why You Should Always Speak to a Florida Traffic Ticket Attorney Before You Pay Your Ticket
While there are plenty of Florida speeding ticket attorneys to choose from, in order to maximize your chances of a successful outcome, it is important that you choose wisely. A traffic ticket attorney from the The Law Place law offices will have extensive experience helping clients just like you. We understand that you don’t need a one-time mistake causing you serious consequences in your future. When you choose The Law Place to represent you in court and defend your speeding charges, you are choosing a highly experienced traffic ticket attorney with a thorough knowledge of Florida laws and traffic rules.