traffic light with three green lights

Attention all procrastinators out there. Broward County is offering a deal too good to refuse. From now until March 16, 2019 (this Saturday), ANYONE who has a conviction for a felony, misdemeanor, or ANY traffic infraction that resulted in court costs and you failed to pay and now have additional fees (from a collection agency) you need to check this out. The Clerk is waiving those additional fees. That’s right. The Clerk is giving you a chance to avoid paying any additional fees because you didn’t pay on time. This waiving of fees will result in up to 35% off your current outstanding balance. WOO HOO!!

If you had an additional statutory late fee added to your original fee, that will still be in effect, BUT, anything extra that was tacked on from a collection agency is being waived.

Who knows if the Clerk will ever offer this again? If this applies to you, run don’t walk to the courthouse and take care of this. After Saturday, your collection fee just went back up 35%. It can be a chance to get your license back if your reason for still having a suspended license is that you haven’t had enough money to pay the debt.

The best part is this offer is good no matter how long you’ve had this outstanding balance. The only small catch is that you must pay it off in full. You can’t get the benefit of the savings and go on a payment plan (listen, you may think the Clerk is dumb, but they’re not stupid).

You can use any method of payment and you can do this at ANY of the four courthouses in Broward County. You can also pay online at the Clerk of court website, https://www.browardclerk.org. For more information, call the Clerk’s office at 954-831-6565.

judge judy sitting on the bench in her court room

Traffic court is not the kind of place you want to walk in not knowing what to expect. It can be intimidating and confusing and if you’re like most people, if you’re not comfortable, you won’t be at your best. And make no mistake about it, not being at your best in traffic court can cost you a lot of money.

Because I’m here to help, I’ve put together three traffic court tips you must know and should use every time you walk in. And when I say “every time,” I don’t mean to insinuate that you get a lot of tickets, but for even one ticket in South Florida, you will have to go to court a minimum of 2 times if you want to go to trial.

So here are my 3 traffic court tips

  1. Know what type of hearing you are attending

  2. Research and know exactly what you were charged with

  3. Get there early and listen, listen, listen to everything being said

The first tip might seem a little confusing, but not every court hearing is for the same purpose. Usually, court hearings have a name that gives some type of description as to what they are. For traffic court in south Florida, there is a Pre-trial conference and a trial.

Every Pre-trial conference always has people excited because they don’t see the officer that wrote their ticket, and because of that, they are assuming it will get dismissed. What they don’t realize is that there are NO police officers in the courtroom because police officers are not required to attend a pre-trial conference. It is not your trial where evidence is going to be presented, so there is no point to the officer being there. It is a time for legal motions or changes of plea.

The next tip may also seem obvious, but many people don’t realize what they are in court for. They think they were charged with speeding, but never really took the time to look at the ticket and research it online to see that not all speeding tickets are alike. Many times, an officer will be nice and charge someone with a ticket for failing to obey a traffic control device (a lesser charge) and the defendant is talking in court about how they weren’t speeding. You have to look at the statute and do a little research to see what the state must prove.

Lastly, by showing up a little early, you will have an opportunity to get a good seat up front. No, this isn’t a Broadway show, but by sitting close, you will be able to hear what is being said by the attorneys who are representing other people. There aren’t that many different types of traffic laws, so there is a good chance, you might hear an attorney saying something about a case that is similar if not identical to yours. Only by listening will you be able to pick up something that might help you with your case.

If all of this seems overwhelming, or if you just prefer to let the pros handle it, you can always call an experienced traffic attorney. If you have any questions, you can email me at [email protected]

sticky note with the words helpful tips

So you got a traffic ticket and want to fight it yourself. You don’t want or need some fancy lawyer doing the talking for you. Besides, who knows more about what happened when you got pulled over, you or the lawyer?

Believe me, I understand the anger and frustration and the need for justice that is coursing through your veins. I can also understand the need to attempt to do something yourself and the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with it.

We’ve all tried to “fix” something ourselves before breaking down and calling a professional? And although you never went to law school, how hard can it be? You’ve seen a few shows on TV with lawyers. You just stand up there and tell the judge what happened, right? Well. . .how do I answer that question delicately? Lean close, I don’t want you to miss it. . . here it comes.

NO! Do not start telling the judge what happened.

Here are 3 huge mistakes I see people make in traffic court.

  1. Failing to Prepare

  2. Failing to Listen when they are waiting in court

  3. Talking too much

Failing to prepare is without a question the number one worst thing you can do. To read more about the importance of preparing for your trial, please read my post on how to beat a traffic ticket in court. I will summarize that post by saying it is much more complicated than telling the judge why you feel the police officer was wrong to give you the ticket, and only by preparing will you be able to intelligently make an argument that sounds more like someone who deserves a dismissal and less like someone complaining or making excuses.

The next mistake I see all the time are people who fail to pay attention to everything going on and fail to listen when someone else’s case is being heard. Especially if an attorney is talking. The chances are pretty high that the attorney is talking about the exact same type of case you have. What better opportunity will you have to pick up some “free legal advice” about your case? You might be able to make the same argument the attorney made when it’s your turn. Yet, I see people on their phones, talking to their neighbor, or just staring off into space instead of listening.

You’ve heard the expression “you have two ears and one mouth, that’s so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” Listen, listen, listen, and when it’s your turn to speak. . . whatever you do, DON’T TALK TOO MUCH. And that is the other big mistake I see people make.

By preparing, you will know what you were charged with and what the elements that must be proven against you. By listening, you will hear whether the police officer properly informed the judge about your case, and by only talking about what is absolutely necessary, you will stand a chance of getting your case dismissed and not shooting yourself in the foot.

Don’t tell the judge anything that isn’t legally required. Again, this goes back to preparing, but never tell a judge you were only speeding for a few seconds or that you were only keeping up with traffic. These are not only excuses, you are actually admitting to the violation and have just made it very easy for a judge to find you guilty.

If all else fails, and you chicken out or change your mind at the last minute and want to hire a lawyer, no worries, there are good ones to be found. You may want to read up on how to hire an attorney for a traffic matter and the questions you should ask.

If you do go through with it, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear, win or lose.

Court costs are one of the most frustrating things for people to understand. At least once a week, we get a call in the office from someone who wants to know why they have to pay more court costs on their most recent ticket compared to their prior ticket. Or, and this one is my personal favorite, why their friend who had the exact same type of ticket, paid less in court costs. The answer to all these questions lies in understanding the 4 factors that can determine traffic court costs. Here they are:

  1. Your driving history

  2. The type of ticket

  3. Your attitude towards the officer who pulled you over

  4. The judge or traffic magistrate hearing your case

Your driving history is one of the biggest things that can determine the amount of your court costs. The reason is simple. The courts are always on the lookout for “crazy drivers” and try to nip in the bud, any future “crazies.”

If you have only been driving for a few years and have already racked up 3 or more tickets and they are all “dangerous” activities like speeding over 100mph or passing a stopped school bus, then you are a judge’s dream defendant, because he/she gets to make an example out of you, in front of everyone. You will most likely get one of the higher traffic court costs of the entire day from that judge.

Conversely, if you have been driving for 40 years and this is your first ticket, you will probably be rewarded for your great driving history and merely get a slap on the wrist.

Now, truth be told, the person who appears to have a “perfect” record, my be a worse driver, and may have received numerous tickets in his/her lifetime, but if all those tickets were taken to court and dismissed, they would not appear on a driving record and it can look as if that person never had a ticket. This is another reason why it’s so important to fight your tickets and not to just pay the fine.

The next factor is the type of traffic ticket you received. Clearly, we can all agree, that not all traffic tickets are the same. As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, certain violations like speeding in a school zone where children are present are much worse than making a right turn on red when no one was on the road at 2 a.m. Even speeding tickets all vary in severity. Going nine miles over is clearly not as bad as going 39 over. This is common sense and should be no surprise to anyone.

The third factor is the way you behaved to the police officer who wrote you the ticket. Personally, I feel the first amendment provides you the right to call the officer a name as long as it’s not threatening in any way (believe me, I’ve heard what the officers call you guys when they pull you over, and it ain’t pretty), but the courts do not agree with me and will absolutely punish you more severely if you are anything but nice to the officer. They are only doing their job (yes, they have ticket quotas) and don’t need to be told that they should “get back to the donut shop.”

What I always tell people is to roll up the window after the officer gives you the ticket, drive away, and call him every name in the book if you feel the need to get it off your chest. But please, bite your tongue and your urge to tell the officer how you really feel. It will save you money in the long run. Oh, and please, please, for the love of God, do not say “My attorney will see you in court!!” We love the vote of confidence, but you’re not helping your cause.

The last factor is the actual judge or magistrate that hears your case. Judges are people too and just like people, they have good days and bad days, some are nice and some are not as nice. The judge is given great discretion on an appropriate punishment and here’s another case where two identical violations, with two identical records, can wind up with two completely different results.

Most attorneys know when they see who the judge is going to be, what the result will probably be. And “no” we can’t pick who your judge is going to be. That’s called forum shopping and it’s a no-no, but there are still a few tricks most attorneys know to try and work the system, but it’s not foolproof.

I hope I’ve been able to give you some insight into your traffic court costs. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. Of course, you can always email me at [email protected]