unger & kowitt logo with red light camera cartoon

ARTICLE UPDATE: 2/25/19

Since this post was written, much has been happening in the Red Light Camera Ticket world. First of all, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Jimenez v. State, on May 3, 2018, that cities are within their rights to have cameras installed and issue tickets. As soon as that ruling came down, it caused a huge blow to our (and all) attorneys ability to fight them. Basically, once that ruling came down, the courts had to allow cities to write tickets and it made it nearly impossible to fight them successfully.

Now, I say “successfully” because it has always been our philosophy at Unger & Kowitt to only charge people money to fight them IF we firmly believe that we can beat them and get them thrown out. Once that ruling came down, it became obvious that Courts were no longer going to allow the attorneys to make motions or arguments to get cases thrown out. Therefore, in almost every instance, we stopped handling these types of cases.

So, how does this relate to anyone out there that received a Red Light Ticket and was looking for a refund because lower court rulings had determined they were written improperly? What do you think? Because the Supreme Court gave them the “green” light (sorry, couldn’t help myself), I would think the Class Action lawsuits would dissolve. I’ll keep you posted if I hear differently, but like I wrote in the original post, getting money back from the government is nearly impossible, so don’t hold your breath.

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If you’ve received a red light camera ticket in Florida in the past few years, you may be aware of a ruling against the city of Hollywood that deemed their red light camera program unconstitutional.

Finally, those of us who have felt tickets issued by machines instead of humans (and issued to the owner of the vehicle and not the driver) had so many inherent flaws that they couldn’t possibly be legal, were given hope.

Hope that red light cameras would disappear forever; hope that we’d never see speeding ticket cameras; hope that the rules that have been around for centuries (i.e. the right to confront your accuser, due process, notice and the right to be heard, innocent until proven guilty, etc. . . ), weren’t being taken away from us.

Sadly, that was not the case.

Because there’s way too much money at stake, every other city of Florida continued writing red light camera tickets in the hopes that they would be able to keep the money generated in their cities.

Immediately, plenty of class action lawsuits were formed because people who had heard about the ruling wanted a refund. Makes perfect sense. If the tickets should not have been written, then those people who received and red light camera ticket and paid it should get their money back.

Let me ask you, how many times have you ever gotten money back from the government? Exactly. Those suits continue to travel through the courts, and if I was one of those people hoping for a refund, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

During this time, the city of Aventura altered the way their red light camera ticket program worked and in a recent lawsuit against them, the courts ruled that the changes they made were sufficient and their tickets were deemed permissible.

What a mess. So basically, each city is going to have to be sued so that they can prove to the courts that they are either behaving like Hollywood or like Aventura, or something else entirely.

In the meantime, the ruling in the city of Aventura was sent up to the Supreme Court so we may finally get a definitive answer.

But none of this should affect the class action lawsuit. At the moment, there is no question that the city of Hollywood was acting improperly when it issued its red-light camera tickets. If they end up changing their procedure, that should not affect all the tickets that were written improperly.

Refunds should have immediately gone out to those aggrieved. However, because the money is split between a public and private entity, I’m afraid there will be very little if any money coming back to the innocent victims.

For now, if you get a red light camera ticket, don’t pay it. My firm will be happy to view the video for free and discuss your best option. As to the class action lawsuits . . . we’ll keep you posted.

For more questions regarding Red Light Traffic Tickets and other Florida Violations, please contact us direct 866-374-8355

cartoon of girl getting her driver's license

Bad news: Your 16-year-old was carelessly cruising down the highway when suddenly he was startled by the wail of a police siren.  Slowing down at first sight of a cop didn’t cut it this time and he was left with his first traffic ticket that could cost YOU hundreds of dollars in insurance rate hikes. What now? Although the best way to get out of that ticket is to teach your teenager how to avoid it in the first place, Unger & Kowitt wants to make sure you know that all drivers, regardless of age, have three options when they do get that first traffic ticket. Continue reading “Help! My Teenager Got His First Ticket. Now What?”

old woman judge

As I was sitting in court today I had an opportunity to watch not only the other traffic attorneys, but the unrepresented people (that would be the people who choose to fight a ticket themselves and not hire a lawyer), and I noticed something interesting.  Anyone can get ONE traffic ticket dismissed.  Here’s how.

Continue reading “How To Get Traffic Tickets Dismissed in Florida”
Time is money. Trust us, we’re lawyers and we know what we are talking about. So when clients ask us “How long it will take to fight a traffic ticket in court?” the answer is . . . it depends. There are a number of factors that can determine how long a person will be forced to sit and wait in traffic court, but there are things you can do to save time.  But please note, there really is only one way to save both time and money in traffic court. Continue reading “The Only Way to Save Time and Money in Traffic Court”
Traffic court fees are some of the most misunderstood aspects of the entire traffic ticket process, and, unfortunately, often some of the costliest. The possibility of an added expense to your already high-priced ticket is not something to which driver’s take kindly. There are Three Things To Know About the Court Costs associated with your traffic ticket. Continue reading “3 Things To Know About Court Costs and Your Traffic Ticket”
person on road next to car at night

With all the fanfare surrounding Red Light traffic tickets these days, Florida drivers shutter at the mere mention of the word “camera.” But news that South Florida police agencies are considering more dashboard or even body-mounted cameras should not be met with similar despair. Any tool the police use to “capture” images of potential traffic violations is also an opportunity for drivers and ticket attorneys to challenge a citation.

Just ask Rod MacIver, a Vermont artist who used a dashcam from the police officer’s patrol car to challenge and beat a red light ticket. He is now suing the department for $2,000 stemming from the stop.

The case garnered plenty of attention (CNN and the Huffington Post wrote about it!). As well as providing a good lesson not take a cop’s, or his sergeant’s, word for something, the case shows how dash cams can be used for your defense. However, one piece of advice would be to NOT react the way Mr. MacIver reacted when the officer pulled him over. In Florida, being anything but polite to the officer will only make things worse at the scene and very possibly hurt your chances in court.

Like always, there are some things you should know before you start rejoicing just because you see a dashboard camera. The first is that even if they have a dash or body-mounted camera, police officers are not necessarily required to record a stop.

And if they do, they won’t necessarily tell you as the Florida Rules of Traffic Court do not require disclosure of video evidence.

In order to obtain such evidence, if it exists, one must file a public records request under Florida Statute Section 119. Doing so quickly is the best way to assure you get the evidence as there is no standard time where such videos are kept. That’s another reason to hire a ticket attorney – as if you needed any more! – as they will know the best way to get that video evidence.

Of course, just having access to a video of your traffic stop doesn’t guarantee anything except that both sides can potentially use evidence when arguing their case regarding a traffic ticket.

Another benefit of the cameras is that officers know they are being “watched” and tend to behave better. But that goes for you as well, so make sure to follow these rules after you are stopped, or risk having them re-broadcast for a not-so-sympathetic judge.

Now that you know a little about dash and body-mounted cameras and how to get them and use them, check out how prevalent they are becoming in South Florida:

  • The Broward Sheriff’s Office, as well as Hollywood and Davie police, use dash cams but only for DUI arrests.
  • In Palm Beach County, Boca Raton already has dash cams in all police cars while most in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach have them.
  • As for Miami-Dade County, they are still woefully behind the times regarding dash cams with only a handful of agencies (most notably, Pinecrest) having them in their cars.
  • It seems pretty clear that we will only see more dashboard or body-mounted cameras on police as time goes on.

    If you have a Florida traffic ticket and would like an opinion about it for FREE, please call 866-374-8355 and I or my staff will be happy to review it with you and tell you what we think would be in your best interest.

    man texting and driving
    Texting while driving has never been a good idea, and now, starting Oct. 1, it will also be illegal. That’s when a new ban on texting while driving goes into effect. Motorists are now looking at a $30 fine for the first offense and $60 for a second, plus court costs. Like with all driving laws and the tickets they involve, there are some things you should know. Continue reading “Texting While Driving Now Illegal in Florida”
    toy car climbing over coins

    By now I hope everyone has been well schooled on the need to avoid points on their license.  Points, of course, are how insurance companies determine how to set your rates.  More points= higher premiums.

    But are points the only factor insurance companies use?  Hardly.  And here’s the important point to take away from this post.  

    With the creation of newer types of tickets that don’t carry points (HOV violations and Red Light Camera tickets), the insurance industry has had to tweak their formula on how they decide to raise your rates.  Hint: It involves tickets that do not carry points.

    Years ago, life was simple in the auto insurance world.  You got points, your rates would go up.  No points, and you were in pretty good shape (assuming no accidents).

    Points were also the standard the state would use to weed out the good drivers from bad.  More points, they figured, meant you were a driver they needed to keep an eye on, and at some point, (no pun intended) once you hit a certain threshold, they would suspend your license.

    That system worked for years. But then, greed took hold in the form of tickets that did not carry points. These were easier to push through the legislature because they did not affect a person’s ability to drive as long as that person kept paying them (which would not be the case for tickets that carry points)

    And, of course, one of these tickets, in particular, the red light camera ticket, was sold as a panacea to all the cities who were starved for cash and looking for a quick fix.  Instead of having to hire and train police officers, which can get expensive, (what with pensions and health care), private companies pounced on the opportunity to tell the cities they would install the expensive equipment and do all the heavy lifting, if the cities would provide one police officer in an air-conditioned room to watch video all day and sign off on the tickets.

    Millions of dollars later, the losers in all this were the insurance companies who were missing out on their piece of the pie because these tickets don’t carry points.  No problem there, they just adjusted their formula to include paid tickets that appeared as convictions on a driver’s record.

    What’s a person to do?  You guessed it.

    FIGHT BACK! (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

    By not paying the ticket, and by choosing to fight it, you stand a very good chance of keeping a conviction from appearing on your driving record, which should keep your insurance from going up.

    Keep in mind, for red light camera tickets only, if you receive what’s called a “notice of violation” and are given the option of paying $158, if you choose this option, you will not have any mark on your driving record.  What I’m talking about, are the situations where you never received the notice of violation and receive the uniform traffic citation telling you to pay $277 or you do not want to pay the $158 and want to fight your ticket.

     

    Please note: If you decide to fight your red light camera ticket, I AM NOT telling you to fight them in the kangaroo courts the local cities have just set up to confuse people into thinking they are actually getting a fair shake.

    No, I’m talking about fighting your red light camera ticket in a “real” court of law, with a “real” judge and “real” due process. The ONLY way you will be able to get to a “real” court of law is to ignore your Notice of Violation and wait until you receive a Uniform Traffic Citation.

    Now, because I obviously don’t work for an insurance company, I decided to do some research.  I went ahead and asked insurance agent/adjuster Jonathan Rausch, and he told me, “yes” when I asked if a person’s rates would increase if they had a conviction for one of these “no point” tickets.

    Only by fighting a ticket and getting it either dismissed completely or getting the adjudication withheld can you stand a chance to keep your insurance low.

    So now, more than ever, it’s incumbent on people who get a ticket to fight the ticket and not “give in” and just pay it.   By fighting the ticket yourself, or by hiring a lawyer, you will be protecting your insurance premium for years from needless increases.

    If you have a Florida traffic ticket, one that carries points or not, and would like an opinion about it for FREE, please give me a call at 866-374-8355 and I or my staff will be happy to review it with you and tell you what we think would be in your best interest.

     

    driving in the rain

    Summer is here in Florida. How do I know? Well for starters, the heat coming from my car door when I open it rivals my oven and by the time I’ve finally cooled off, I’ve reached my destination.

    How else do I know that summer is here? How about the daily storms that pop up every afternoon just as rush hour is about to hit.

    This is the time of year when we see terrible storms, and driving through them can cause everyone to grip the wheel just a little bit tighter. In case you’re not sure what to do when it rains and you’re behind the wheel, here are a few reminders from Smartmotorist.com:

    • Slow Down (this one should be obvious)
    • Stay towards the Center Lanes (the water tends to move away from the middle)
    • Keep the Proper Distance from the Car in Front (3 Second Rule)
    • Avoid Sudden Movements including Slamming on Your Brakes (you can lose control of your vehicle)

    But let’s say you did all of those things and for some reason, you still managed to get into an accident, and to make matters worse, you are the one that got the ticket for careless driving.

    A normal accident ticket is bad enough, but in a storm, you have to sit in your car while it’s pouring out and wait for an officer to hand you a careless driving ticket that’s going to cost you money and possibly points on your license.

    I hear you. Breathe. One more time.

    We’ve got you covered. Accident tickets can come in many forms, but whether it’s careless driving, its more serious relative known as reckless driving, or one of the many special hazard tickets (following too close or driving too fast for conditions), there are defenses you can use to try and get the ticket dismissed and keep the points off your record.

    First and foremost, if the police officer did not see the accident (as most do not), this is a huge advantage for you. The police officer is the one who the judge is going to rely on to “put you behind the wheel” and explain what you did wrong. And most of the time, people are only able to testify to what they saw or heard, not what someone told them (that’s called hearsay). Therefore, if the officer didn’t witness the accident unless they have special skills in accident reconstruction, they will not be allowed to testify against you.

    So now that that officer is out of the way, that leaves anyone else who may have seen or heard something. Usually, what’s left is a person who was either involved in the accident or a passerby. In both of those situations, you are usually dealing with a person who isn’t very comfortable testifying in court or who just isn’t aware of all the technical aspects of what they must testify to, in order for your ticket to stand.

    What I mean by that last paragraph is that police officers are trained in many things, and one of them is how to explain to a judge what a person did wrong after they have written a ticket. The judge can’t act as a prosecutor on behalf of the state, therefore, the person testifying on the state’s behalf (the police officer or other witnesses) must be able to meet the elements of the charge. Most non-police officers have no idea what they are supposed to say and as a result, can’t meet the specific elements.

    Most people who were involved in an accident testify like this, “I was driving along, and out of nowhere this (fill in the blank) came and hit me.”

    The problem with that explanation, is that they did not identify the driver in any way, nor did they prove to the court that the defendant was driving. That usually results in a “win” for the defense.

    If you did get a ticket for careless driving or any other moving violation in Florida, and would like a FREE consultation, please give me a call at 866-374-8355 and I or my staff will be happy to help you.