If you received a speeding ticket in the state of Florida for going twenty to twenty-nine miles over the posted speed limit, you are likely wondering what the best way to handle the ticket would be. You may have heard that you really can’t “win” when you contest a speeding ticket, so you might as well pay it and move on. Maybe you plan on fighting the ticket on your own—after all, how hard can it be? A friend is telling you to go to traffic school and everything will be fine, while your mom says you should definitely hire an attorney. This might be the time to remember the old adage that “mom is always right.”
Especially if you already have points on your driving record and simply can’t afford to accrue any more, it could be time to listen to mom and pick up the phone. A couple of years ago the state of Florida ranked first in the number of speeding tickets given out on an annual basis—a dubious honor, to be sure. While between 80-90% of Floridians will simply write out a check in order to have the issue over and done with, this does not mean it is the best course of action—for anyone. There are many factors to consider before you make a decision on what to do with your speeding ticket, however it is important to remember that you have only thirty days in which to make a decision which could have significant bearing on your future.
Why Did You Receive Your Speeding Ticket?
Some people just seem to get more than their fair share of speeding tickets. When asked what determines which car they pull over (in a situation where there are many choices), police officers offered up the following:
- Brightly colored sports cars with racing stripes or custom designs can garner tickets much more quickly than other cars on the road.
- Having darkly tinted windows is almost an invitation to get pulled over for speeding (or any other traffic offense) Because the police officer can’t see inside, he or she may immediately think the worst—and react accordingly.
- Driving noticeably faster than the vehicles around you ups your chances of being singled out for a speeding ticket. If you are within a “pack” of vehicles all driving ten miles over the speed limit, you’re not likely to be pulled over. Further, stay in the middle of the “pack” rather than being the car out in front or the car at the rear.
- Any type of “rude” behavior while driving such as changing lanes frequently, tailgating or driving aggressively is more likely to get you noticed, then even if everyone else is speeding, you are the one most likely to be ticketed.
- Speeding when you are the only car on the road is equal to hanging out a sign that says “ticket me.”
- If you drive a nondescript vehicle, you are much less likely to be ticketed for speeding, and if your appearance says you are a responsible member of the community you are also less likely to be ticketed.
- Finally, those who are rude and belligerent to the police officer vastly increase their likelihood of getting a speeding ticket.
Florida Statutory Penalties for Speeding Twenty to Twenty-Nine Miles Over the Posted Speed Limit
Florida counties don’t vary significantly from one to the next in the amount charged for speeding fines, although the surcharges (court fees) may differ a certain amount. As an example, a speeding ticket for driving twenty to twenty-nine miles over the posted speed limit will cost you anywhere from $270-$330—a pretty hefty fine. You will also garner four points on your driving record, and if you have accrued any other points over the past year or so, you could actually end up losing your license for one month, three months or even a year. If you were driving twenty to twenty-nine miles over the posted speed limit in a school zone or a construction zone, be prepared to have your fines increased significantly and to have extra points added to your driving record. If you are a CDL driver, you are likely to lose your job for speeds this high over the speed limit.
The Different Ways You Can Handle Your Speeding Ticket
Once you receive a speeding ticket, you are allowed thirty days to take care of it. No excuses will be allowed should you stick the ticket in a drawer and forget about—in which case you may also end up with a Failure to Appear charge as well. Your first option is to simply pay the ticket. You write out a check, drop it in the mail and you can put it behind you. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple, even though this is the path of least resistance—and the one most people take. By paying your ticket you have entered a guilty plea and will have four points added to your driving record.
You could decide to go to traffic school, however you are only allowed to do so one time per year and five times total over your lifetime. The only advantage to taking a traffic school course is that once you have successfully completed the course no points will be added to your driving record. You will still be required to pay all the fines and fees associated with your speeding ticket as well as the cost of driving school. You will also have to take time away from work, school, or other obligations in order to take the class, although you may be able to take an online traffic school course.
Your third option is to go to court and defend yourself by pleading not guilty and explaining to the judge why you are not guilty. If you have plenty of self-confidence, at least a working knowledge of Florida traffic laws, and understand what information you should try to extract from the police officer to help your case, you might stand a marginal chance of winning your case. Be aware, however, that it is very rare for a judge to side with a person off the street over a police officer. You must be able to think quickly on your feet when asked a question you weren’t expecting, and you must have facts and data to back up your assertion that you were not speeding. If you lose your case—and you likely will—the judge can order you to do any or all of the following: pay fines and fees, pay additional court charges or take a driving course. You will have four points added on to your driving record.
Your final option is to call an experienced Florida traffic attorney to discuss your case with and determine how to proceed. Your attorney’s ultimate goal will be to have your ticket dismissed entirely, but should that prove impossible, your attorney may be able to negotiate a lesser charge which will add fewer points to your driving record. Your Florida traffic attorney is likely acquainted with the judge and other court personnel as well as the police officer, therefore has an advantage when dealing with these people on your behalf. Your attorney understands Florida traffic laws inside and out, and will use this knowledge to your advantage. Having a skilled Florida traffic attorney by your side in court presents a professional appearance, automatically giving you an edge.
The Various Ways Police Officers May Measure Your Speed
There are a variety of ways a police officer can measure your speed. What method is used may depend on how large the police department is, what kind of funding is available, and whether the area is open road or busy city streets. The types of speed measurement include:
- If you see a police cruiser following another vehicle, keeping the same distance and speed, the officer may be pacing the vehicle, using his or her speedometer to clock the suspect’s speed. In order for pacing to be accurate, the police officer must first catch up to the suspected speeder, then maintain a constant distance between the two vehicles long enough to make an accurate estimate of the suspect’s speed. The officer must follow for a minimum of 2/10ths of mile, although some will follow for a longer period of time in order to increase the effectiveness of testimony should you choose to go to court. An officer who is skilled at pacing has good depth perception and has had sufficient training to ensure accuracy. If you were paced on a hill or around a curve, you may be able to challenge the officer’s assessment of your speed. Many police officers like to remain a fair distance behind when pacing to avoid alerting the driver, however pacing is only considered accurate if the officer was much closer to you for the 2/10ths of a mile. Otherwise, the “pacing” speed could have really been “catch up speed.” Heavy traffic makes it extremely difficult for an officer to obtain an accurate pacing speed.
- Aircraft speed detection is generally used only on wide-open highways, and because of the expense involved is not actually used as often as police departments want you to believe. Drivers are ticketed when a ground patrol is alerted to the driver’s excessive speed from an aircraft. The aircraft officer may calculate your speed by timing how long it takes your vehicle to get from point A to point B—two pre-determined fixed objects. A second method involves pacing your vehicle from the air, using a stopwatch to time the aircraft’s passage over two pre-determined fixed objects. If the aircraft patrol determines you are speeding, a ground patrol will be radioed and will independently verify your speed. Should both officers not show up at your court hearing, you stand a much better chance of winning your case, as both officers are required to detail how they determined your speed.
- Detecting your speed using VASCAR requires much more human input than laser or radar guns, which also increases the likelihood of mistakes when calculating your speed. The police officer measure the distance between two points by using a tape measure or the cruiser’s odometer which is connected to the VASCAR unit. When the police officer sees you pass one of the two predetermined points, he pushes a button to start the electronic stopwatch, then pushes it again to stop when you pass the second point. If the VASCAR unit is attached to the odometer, the officer can use it while the car is moving. So long as the officer correctly manipulates the “time” and “distance” switches correctly while accurately observing your vehicle, then he may get a fairly accurate speed measurement. Your Florida traffic ticket attorney may be able to challenge the officer’s reaction time, the accuracy of the police cruiser’s odometer and the inability of the officer to accurately judge when your car passed both points.
- Radar guns are used across the country, using radio waves reflected off a moving object (your car) to determine its speed. When the radio waves bounce off your car, they are picked up and amplified by a receiver to be analyzed, then reflected in a readout of your speed. Radar guns use radio waves which are similar to AM and FM radio transmissions, but have higher frequencies in order to garner a straighter beam, truer reflection and more accurate speed reading. A radar gun cannot be used on hills or curves—you must remain in the officer’s line of sight. The radar gun can be hand-held or car-mounted, and can be operated while the officer’s vehicle is moving or stationary. Radar detectors have serious flaws, especially when there is more than one vehicle on the road. As an example, if you are in one lane and a faster vehicle in another, the faster vehicle will produce a higher reading—which may be mistakenly attributed to you. This is most likely to occur if the other vehicle is larger than yours—inability of the radar gun to distinguish between two separate vehicles is known as lack of resolution.
- Laser guns are also frequently used, however they are considerably more expensive than radar guns, therefore not as likely to be used in small police stations with an equally small budget. A laser gun uses a low powered beam of laser light which bounces off your vehicle, returning to the receiver in the unit, allowing it to electronically calculate your speed. Laser detectors are considered to be more accurate than radar guns, and can be more precisely aimed, meaning the gun can more accurately pinpoint one specific vehicle. However, when a handheld laser gun is used, the officer must be able to hold the beam on the exact same part of the vehicle during the test, which can be tricky for two reasons: the beam is much narrower than a radar beam, and the officer can’t actually see the beam.
Other Consequences Associated With Your Speeding Ticket
In addition to paying fines and fees and having points added to your driving record, when you receive a speeding ticket for speeds twenty to twenty-nine miles above the speed limit your insurance premiums are very likely to increase significantly and, in some cases, your insurance company may cancel your coverage completely. Should you have your insurance canceled, you may find it very difficult to obtain coverage elsewhere. Adding four points to your driving record can be a very serious issue if you already have points on your record, and you could end up losing your license for a period of time.
Possible Defenses Your Florida Traffic Ticket Attorney May Use on Your Behalf
Your specific circumstances will dictate which defense(s) your Florida traffic attorney may use on your behalf. Some of the more commonly used defenses to speeding tickets include:
- Your Florida traffic ticket attorney may be able to show there was not proper notice of the speed limit, therefore you were unaware of the correct limit. The speed limit sign may have been removed or may have been hidden behind a bush or tree.
- Your attorney may claim that even though you were exceeding the speed limit, you were driving appropriately and safely for the road and weather conditions as the time.
- Your attorney may be able to prove that the police officer in your case was not properly trained in the use of laser, radar, pacing, VASCAR or aircraft speed detection or that the specific equipment was not properly maintained or calibrated.
- Your attorney may be able to show that you were speeding, however you were reacting to an emergency.
Why You Should Speak to a Knowledgeable Florida Traffic Ticket Attorney
The attorneys of The Law Place understand that the burden of proof is on the police officer once you are in court to prove you were exceeding the speed limit. While the standards are high, if you walk in to court without a knowledgeable attorney by your side, you may be fighting a losing battle. Our attorneys are ready to object to any omissions on the part of the state and to question the officer’s knowledge and training in operating the speed detector used, in order to have your speeding ticket dismissed. The attorneys of The Law Place have extensive experience in traffic court and are familiar with the court personnel. We understand that you have choices, and strongly believe you will benefit from choosing our firm.