In the past month, I have received a higher than normal call volume from people who (1) have received citations for non-criminal traffic infractions, and (2) are looking to "avoid the points". These infractions are usually classified as "moving violations" which include, for example, speeding, careless driving, or violation of a traffic control device, and "non-moving violations" which include, for example, seat belt violations and parking tickets. Typically, points are assessable on moving violations only. Also, because these infractions are civil in nature, they are not punishable by incarceration and there is no right to either a trial by jury or court appointed counsel.
If you have a received a citation for a non-criminal moving violation, and you are looking to avoid the imposition of points, simply paying the ticket won't get it done. To avoid points, there are a few options available to you. If you feel, for whatever reason, that the ticket should not have been issued, you can contact the clerk of court, in the county where the ticket was issued, and schedule and infraction hearing. At the hearing, the court will hear testimony from the officer who issued the citation. The court may also hear from non-law enforcement witnesses (called by either side) and the person to whom the ticket was issued. If the officer fails to attend the hearing, the judge will either dismiss the ticket or re-schedule the hearing. If, after a hearing on the merits, the court makes a finding that you are not in violation, then the ticket will be dismissed which will, obviously, avoid the imposition of points. If the court finds that you are in violation, it will usually adjudicate you guilty (which will result in the imposition of points), or it may withhold adjudication (which will avoid points, as set forth below). In either scenario, the court will require you to pay a fine and may also order you to attend a driver improvement course.
If you are not contesting the ticket, another option is to contact the clerk of court and have the matter calendared for a plea hearing. If you ask the court for a withhold of adjudication, the court will typically review your driver license record to determine if you qualify. If the court withholds adjudication, you will avoid the imposition of points.
Another option is to elect to attend a basic driver improvement course. If you are not contesting the infraction, and you qualify, this presents a very efficient and convenient option. Within 30 days of the date you receive the citation, you must complete the information on the bottom of the ticket and return it, with your fine amount to the clerk's office. This can be done by mail, in person at any clerk's location, or may be done on-line via credit card.
After you have submitted to the clerk's office your election to attend a driver improvement course you must contact a school that is approved by the state of Florida to schedule the course. You can find a list of approved schools on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.
You are required to submit proof of completion of the course to the clerk's office within 60 days from the date you elected to attend. You can mail or bring your certificate of completion to any clerk's office location to satisfy this requirement.
If, as a result of the moving violation, you elect to complete a basic driver improvement course, you will receive the following benefits:
- Your insurance rates will not go up and your policy will not be canceled due to the underlying violation, unless the violation resulted in a crash and you were the at-fault driver; and
- Points will not be assessed on your driver license record, adjudication of guilt will be withheld, and your safe driver status will be maintained, if applicable.
There are, however, certain limitations that you need to be aware of. Drivers with a class A, B, or C license may not make an election under this section. Also, you cannot make the basic driver improvement course selection if you have already done so in the preceding twelve months. A person cannot make the election on more than five occasions in a lifetime.
I hope this helps. Specific questions should be directed to the clerk of court or to a St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Tampa area traffic attorney.