Written by attorney David Ashley Haenel

Truant from Traffic Court: What Traffic Cases Require a Court Appearance in Florida-- Or Else!

Getting a traffic ticket is not a pleasant experience for anyone. It is unfortunate, but traffic violations are a necessary evil. Can you imagine our road ways with out any traffic laws? Even with the laws that are currently in place, we still have a plethora of traffic accidents. Last year alone, there were more than six million accidents in this country. Half of the people in these accidents were injured and 42,000 died. It is an unfortunate reality that auto accidents are the number one killer of people between the age of 2 and 33.

If you get a ticket in Florida you do have some options as to how you can take care of it. But be sure you do take care of it. When you fail to appear on your court date and don't pay your ticket in advance, this is seen as entering a verdict of "Guilty in Abstentia;" If you fail to take care of your ticket or go to court as assigned, you can lose your license, have a warrant put out for your arrest and you could also have extra fines added to your total for the failure to appear.

You will need to go to court if you have a criminal traffic or misdemeanor charge. These tickets can carry penalties including fines/fees, probation and even incarceration.

Some examples of criminal traffic offense are:

  • not having a valid driver's license
  • driving while license is suspended or revoked
  • reckless driving
  • attaching a tag that is not assigned to a plate
  • speeding in excess of 30+ mph
  • leaving child unattended in a car
  • accident with serious injury or fatality

If you are ticketed for one of these infractions or any other criminal or misdemeanor charge you will be notified by mail of your court date. You must attend court on that date or face further charges and fines.

But in most cases you don't even have to go to court. Almost 85% of Florida's Clerk of Court offices provide the service of paying your ticket without going to court. This is only if you are not fighting the ticket. You also have the option of having a lawyer attend court on your behalf.

When you do get a ticket, there are a few ways to follow up on it. You have 30 days from when you are first issued the citation to take one of these three steps.

a.Pay your ticket

b.Pay your ticket and then go to driver's school

c.Contest your ticket in court

Option 1 - Pay the Ticket

When you decide to pay off the ticket, you will generally be assessed demerit points against your driving record and be expected to pay off your fine in 30 days after the date you got

the ticket.

Option 2 - Go to Driving School

This will add a $7.00 affidavit fee to your fine. You will sign a Traffic School Affidavit and file it with the payment for your ticket. You then have 60 days to attend your four-hour driving course. When you have finished the course, submit your certificate of completion to the County Clerk by mail, fax or email. If you fail to comply with these rules, you will have late fees assessed with the possibility of suspending your license. But by taking the classes you will receive no points against your license.

Option 3 – Taking it to Court

If you decide to contest the ticket, you have to make a request to get a hearing. This must be done in writing within 30 days from the day you get the ticket.

It is a possibility if you go to court and lose you will be given a fine of up to $1,000, assessed points and then be required to attended traffic school, or possibly all of the above. Your insurance rates will quite possibly go up or your policy may be cancelled. This is why it is a good idea to have a lawyer with you any time you go to court, whether you are attempting to fight a ticket or have a required court appearance. Lawyers know how court works and how best to defend you

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