What to do if you get a Florida Traffic Ticket or Traffic Violation
When you get a traffic ticket or violation, you will be dealing with a court in the county where you were ticketed. So even if you live in Palm Beach, if you were cited in Broward, you’ll be dealing with your ticket in Broward.
You have 30 days to contact the court listed on your citation. Failure to do so may result in additional fines and driver’s license suspension.
Find Out How Much Your Ticket Is
The first thing every driver wants to know after they get a traffic ticket is, “How much will this cost?” While Florida traffic ticket fines and penalties are handled on a county-by-county basis, most follow a similar cost structure.
You can usually find your traffic ticket fine printed on the actual ticket. If you can’t find the fee, or you lost your ticket, you must contact the court. You don’t want to miss the 30-day deadline because you misplaced your citation!
Some tickets are assessed additional surcharges on top of the fines for the actual traffic violation. Minor traffic tickets and violations incur smaller fees, but if you’re convicted of a serious crime, such as driving under the influence, you could be facing hundreds or even thousands in extra fees.
- First Conviction: $500 – 5,000
- Second Conviction: $1,000 – 2,000
- Third Conviction: $2,000 – 5,000
- Fourth Conviction: starts at $1,000
Each Florida traffic ticket is also assessed a point value, ranging from 3 to 6 points depending on the violation. These traffic violation points are added to your driving record, and your auto insurance rates could go up. In addition, habitual violators with multiple tickets could face a suspended license.
Checking the fine amount on your citation is typically the first step – regardless of the violation. The options you have for dealing with the ticket, however, are based on eligibility.
Option 1: Plead Guilty and Pay the Fine
After receiving a citation, you can either plead guilty or not guilty. If you decide to plead guilty, you will need to pay the ticket fine. All of the information you will need should be listed on your ticket. If you have questions, contact the court. But generally, you will be able to pay your ticket in one of four ways:
- In person
- Via mail
- Via phone
What Happens After I Pay My Ticket?
Once you pay your traffic ticket (and admit guilt), a few things will happen:
- Points will be added to your driving record
- Your car insurance premium may potentially go up
- Your driver’s license could be suspended if you have too many points
- You may be able to take a driver improvement course to avoid getting points on your record. Contact the court to find out more about this option
Take a Florida Traffic School Course to Remove Points from Your Driving Record
If you are eligible, you may be able to get the points from a citation removed from your driving record. You will need to elect to take a driver improvement course when you pay your ticket. You can do this in person or by mail. To elect to take Florida traffic school by mail, simply:
- Note on your ticket that you intend to take a traffic school course
- Fill out the affidavit that comes with your ticket envelope
- Be sure you get your signature on the affidavit notarized
- Mail in your ticket and affidavit within 30 days to the Clerk’s office in the county where you got your ticket
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible to Take Traffic School?
You will need to meet these requirements to be eligible to take a Florida traffic school course:
- You have not attended traffic school within the last 12 months
- You contacted the court within 30 days of getting your citation
- You are not a commercial driver license (CDL) holder
If you are granted permission to take traffic school, the court will specify the steps you’ll need to take to submit your completion certificate (fax, mail, in person, etc.). Make sure you get this information BEFORE you register for your course, so you know how to deliver your completion information, and how the court is expecting to receive it.
Option 2: Plead Not Guilty and Fight the Ticket
In the state of Florida, the only method of dismissing a traffic citation is by fighting the ticket in court. There are stipulations on this, too – you must meet the following criteria:
- Your ticket must be for a non-criminal violation
- Your ticket may not be a parking ticket
If your traffic ticket violation is eligible to be challenged, there are some necessary steps to follow. Just keep in mind that by opting to fight your traffic ticket, you forfeit the ability to take a Florida DHSMV-approved traffic school course to remove points, in the event that you lose your case.
Your ticket should include specific instructions on how to contest your ticket. Typically, you will need to:
- Let the court know and schedule a hearing: You will need to notify the proper court (in the county where you were ticketed). You can usually find this information on your traffic ticket; otherwise, you can find out online through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website’s “Driver License Check” feature.Generally, you can either call the traffic court or notify the clerk in writing that you would like to schedule a hearing. If you do choose to do it by writing, you must include:
Your citation number
Your mailing address
Your phone number
- Consider hiring a traffic ticket attorney: Because you will have to plead your case in court, it can be a good idea to get a traffic ticket attorney. Having a professional represent you increases the chances that you will win your case.
- Get ready for trial: Gather all of your evidence, as well as witnesses, and go over the facts and your argument. Practice your testimony so you feel ready to present it in court. Your lawyer (if you have one) can help you with this.
- Plead your case in court: The clerk will talk to the officer who cited you, your attorney, and you if you decide to testify. The clerk will listen to the testimonies of any witnesses, review all of the evidence, and then make a decision.
- Be found either not guilty or guilty: If the clerk judges that you are not guilty, there will be some paperwork to fill out, and that will be the end of it. If, however, you are found guilty, the clerk will give you information about:Your fine
Any extra court costs and surcharges
Any additional penalties
- File an appeal, if you want to: You may choose to file an appeal if you are found guilty. This decision requires hiring a court reporter, which, on top of your other fees, can be even more costly than simply paying your fine. However, if you choose to file anyway, you will have to talk to the clerk.
Check Your Driving Record
Regardless of the outcome, always check your driving record shortly after completing the process of dealing with a traffic ticket. Be sure that the correct amount of points have been applied, or removed if you successfully completed a driver improvement course or won your case. If too many points are added accidentally, you could face a license suspension; this is not something you want to risk, so always verify that your driving record is correct.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing is that you respond to your ticket in some way – in a timely manner; ignoring it will not help you. In fact, you could even face a D-6 license suspension for failing to respond to your ticket on time. Your license will remain suspended until you take care of your ticket and pay the required D-6 reinstatement fee. Don’t let this happen to you!
While you can remove points from your driving record, tickets in Florida are not dismissed or removed by taking a BDI course. The only way you can keep a traffic ticket off your record is to prove you were not breaking the law, or fight your ticket in court and win. If you’re planning to fight your ticket, you should definitely consider hiring an attorney to represent you.
Otherwise, if you received a traffic ticket, you can expect the violation to be added to your record. According to the Florida DHSMV, citations stay on your record for 10 years, suspensions 7-11 years, alcohol-related violations for 75 years, and serious CDL violations 55 years.
Your best bet? Drive safely, avoid getting traffic violations, and at the very least, try to keep your record clean with a driver improvement course.