Habitual Offender Laws: Why You Should Fight Every Time
If you get a traffic ticket, it might not seem to be such a big deal. You will probably be fined, and your insurance rates might go up, depending on the exact circumstances. However, since fighting a ticket requires time off from work, hours in traffic court, and money for legal fees (if you hire a lawyer at all), so many people decide to just pay up, learn from their mistake and move on.
What many people do not know, however, is that Florida has a habitual traffic offenders law, which means that a ticket can have lifetime ramifications. If you are convicted of three of the following offenses, based on separate incidents, you will be adjudicated as a habitual offender:
- Voluntary or involuntary manslaughter resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle
- Driving under the influence
- Any felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle was used
- Driving a motor vehicle while your license is suspended or revoked
- Failing to stop and render aid to an injured person after an accident
Got points? Be careful
Even if you have never been convicted of one of these offenses, once you accumulate 15 convictions for any offense where you can be charged with points against your license, you can also be classified as a habitual offender. Tickets issued outside of Florida and even outside the United States are also counted. Once you are classified as a habitual offender, the state will revoke your license for five years.
You also need to be careful if you currently have, or are facing, a suspension due to multiple unpaid traffic tickets — even if you are not a Habitual Traffic Offender. Often times a well-meaning person will pay off these tickets all at once, not realizing that, although they may get their license reinstated, it will again be suspended because of the points accumulated as a result of paying the fines. This can have disastrous effects on your driving privilege and insurance rates for years to come.
It is important to understand that the limits in the law are cumulative, over your entire driving history, going as far back as 1967. You could have a clean driving history for 40 years, get one ticket, and lose your license for violations that happened as a teenager.
In Florida, you should fight every traffic ticket, every time. Fifteen convictions might seem like a large number, but it is not unusual for tickets to add up since people often drive for 60 years or more. In 2006, approximately 23,000 Florida drivers found this out the hard way when they lost their licenses under this law. If you are concerned that your license might be in jeopardy, you need to contact an experienced traffic defense attorney as soon as possible.
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