Your Guide to Pinellas County Traffic Court
If you have received a traffic citation in Pinellas County, Florida for a minor traffic violation, such as a stop sign violation or speeding ticket, or a more serious violation like DUI or leaving the scene of an accident - it is important to know a little bit about our traffic court system.
Pinellas County Traffic Court LocationsThere are currently three different courthouses in Pinellas County that traffic hearings are held at: South County Traffic Court, North County Traffic Court, and the Pinellas County Justice Center (previously known as CJC). In the next few sections, I will explain a little bit about each courthouse, the cases that get set there, and the Judges / Hearing Officers that handle traffic cases at those locations.
South County Traffic CourtIf you received a mandatory-court traffic citation or a criminal traffic offense, such as DUI, DWLSR, Racing on Highway (etc.), and the offense allegedly took place south of Ulmerton Road, then your case will likely be scheduled for an arraignment hearing before Judge Riba at the South County Traffic Court, which is located at 1800 66th St. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33710. If you hire an attorney for a civil traffic infraction that occurred south of Ulmerton Road, your citation will also be heard at this location. There is only one courtroom at this courthouse and the court schedule typically consists of arraignment hearings in the morning, criminal traffic pre-trials in the afternoons, and civil traffic infraction hearings on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. There are also trials spread throughout the week, but they are often held at the end of the infraction hearing calendar, along with criminal motions. If you have a case that is set for an arraignment hearing at the South County Traffic Court, there is one important tip that I have for all prospective clients that I speak to.... don't rely on the date that is on your citation - double check with the Clerk's Office to confirm that your court date is correct because it is not uncommon for the date on the citation to be incorrect. If you have a case at this courthouse and you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.
North County Traffic CourtAgain, if you received a mandatory-court traffic citation, hired a private attorney for a civil traffic infraction, or you received a DUI, DWLSR, Leaving the Scene, Reckless Driving or other criminal traffic citation and the offense allegedly took place NORTH of Ulmerton Road, then your case will likely be scheduled for an arraignment hearing before Judge Bedinghaus at the North County Traffic Court, which is located at 29582 U.S. 19 North, Clearwater, FL 33761. There is also only one courtroom at this courthouse and the court schedule typically consists of arraignment hearings in the morning, criminal traffic pre-trials in the afternoons, and civil traffic infraction hearings on Thursday afternoons (and some weeks have several infraction calendars, depending on the Court's caseload). If you have a case at this courthouse and you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.
Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center (CJC, Also known as Pinellas County Justice Center)If you have received a non-mandatory court, non-criminal infraction, and you contest the citation without an attorney, your case will likely be set for an infraction hearing at the Pinellas County Justice Center (aka CJC), which is located at 14250 49th St N, Clearwater, FL 33762. At this location, cases are heard by Hearing Officers / Magistrates (instead of County Court Judges) and infraction hearings are divided into two courtrooms, one for North County (North of Ulmerton - agencies such as Largo PD, PCSO, Clearwater PD, Tarpon PD, etc.) and one for South County (South of Ulmerton, agencies such as SPPD, PCSO, KCPD, etc.). Having personally witnessed hundreds of pro se (self-represented) defendants fight their citations at this location, I can attest to the fact that the dispositions are significantly worse than those obtained by private lawyers and there are many reasons for that - the main one being that pro se defendants fight nearly every ticket, without even knowing if the Officer has sufficient evidence - and that is one advantage that a private attorney has (we speak to the officers prior to going before the hearing officer / Judge - so we know the cards that have been dealt before placing our bets). This courthouse has four floors and the traffic hearings are held on the third floor at 4:00pm and 5:30pm. After a traffic hearing is concluded, the defendant is instructed to go to the second floor to pick up their paperwork from the Clerk's Office. There are many Judges at this courthouse and while they may not hear your civil infraction, they do occasionally get criminal traffic cases that should have been set at North or South County - and one of the most common reasons for a criminal traffic offense to be set for an arraignment (or subsequent pre-trial) before a Judge at the 49th Street Courthouse ("Complex") is because the Defendant received a misdemeanor (or felony) offense that is not traffic-related at the same time as the traffic offense or the other common reason that a criminal traffic case goes from traffic court to the "Complex" is because the Defendant appears without an attorney at the arraignment hearing for his/her criminal traffic offense at the North or South County Traffic Court and either indicates that he/she is going to hire a lawyer or that he/she requests the services of the public defender's office (and he/she does not waive his/her right to a speedy trial, which forces the Judge to send the case to the complex, so it can be prepared for trial ASAP). As you can tell, simple traffic cases are not as simple as they seem - if you have a question that I did not address, please feel free to ask.