Jeffrey Rich Blog

The holidays are a great time of year – good cheer, family visits, fun parties – but all of the celebrations and holiday travel means more driving, and more driving means more chances to get pulled over and charged with a traffic infraction or DUI.

If you find yourself the subject of a traffic stop during the holidays (or any time) and you are given a speeding ticket or traffic citation, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Silence is Golden: It may be difficult to hold your tongue, especially if you feel you’ve been pulled over unjustly, but the more you say during your traffic stop, the more information that can be used against you in court.
  2. Be Nice: The more polite you are, the better your chances are of possibly getting off with a lesser offense, and of getting a better deal if you go to court. Police Officers are people too, and nobody likes aggressive behavior.
  3. Take Notes: Write down everything you can remember about the traffic stop, while it’s still fresh in your mind. The more information your attorney has about the incident, the easier it will be to plan your defense. Even the details that may not seem important at the time (time of day, the officer’s position during the traffic stop) could come in handy in court. Remember that criminal defense attorneys, especially those who specialize in traffic/speeding tickets, are experienced and knowledgeable about how to construct a proper defense – details that may not seem important to you could make or break your case.

Of course, the same advice applies if you’ve been pulled over for a DUI – the less you say, the better, and the more details your attorney knows about the occurrence, the more he or she can use to your advantage when forming your defense.

About the Firm

Jeffrey M. Rich is a Tampa criminal defense attorney focusing on defending his clients’ speeding tickets, traffic citations and DUI charges, as well as juvenile defense and felony or misdemeanor offenses. Mr. Rich also practices personal injury law.

Mr. Rich is a graduate of Florida Coastal School of Law, and has both prosecutorial and defense experience, ensuring that his clients are represented by someone well-versed in both sides of the law. Jeffrey Rich prides himself on being an aggressive trial lawyer who fiercely advocates for his clients, and you can view the results of some of his cases here.

Too often people get pulled over, officer friendly issues any number of citations, people let the citations sit around for a awhile then on about the 29 day after the citation was issued people either over-night the check to the clerk of the court, or elect the traffic school. People don’t pay attention to the citation, or more importantly the specific statute the officer friendly wrote on the citation.

Case in point:

Defendant driver was travelling on east on 2-lane road. The defendant driver approached a 4-way stop. As he approached the 4-way stop no other vehicle were present. Like so many people before, the defendant rolled through the stop sign without coming to complete stop. Just as defendant driver was rolling through the stop sign, officer friendly was traveling north towards the same intersection. Officer friendly witnessed the defendant driver fail to stop at the stop sign. He flipped on his light and conducted a traffic stop. He approached the vehicle asking the standard questions and before defendant driver had a chance to even blink he was handed a citation.

The defendant felt like most people: “I got caught; I should have stopped at the stop sign”. The defendant let the ticket sit around for a few weeks before thinking about what to do with it. The defendant was not eligible for the traffic school because he had already taken the class within the last 12 months. He decided to call an attorney to see if there was any way to defend the ticket. After consulting with Tampa traffic attorney Jeff Rich he was informed that he was absolutely guilty for running the stop sign and there was no defense for that traffic infraction. However, the attorney informed the defendant that there was great defense to the citation. Traffic Attorney Rich went on to explain that the statute that the officer wrote on the citation was for failing to yield the right away at a four way stop. Since there were no other vehicles at the four-way stop at the time he rolled through the stop sign, he was not guilty of the statute the officer wrote on the citation. He was absolutely guilty of running the stop sign, but that was not what he was charged with.

Attorney Rich set the case for a hearing. At the hearing the officer was present and presented his case. He testified that he witnessed the defendant driving the vehicle and “blow through the stop sign”. At no point in his testimony did he indicate that there were any other vehicles present at the stop sign. The defendant also testified that there were no other vehicles coming in any of the other directions into the intersection. At the conclusion of the testimony the attorney argued that no evidence was presented that there were any other vehicle in the other 3 directions, therefore it was legally impossible for the defendant to be guilty of the infraction that he was cited for. The failure to yield statute requires that a vehicle must yield to another vehicle that arrives at a four way stop first. Without any evidence of another vehicle there was nothing to yield to. Attorney Rich conceded that the defendant was absolutely guilty of running the stop sign, but that was not what he was cited for. The Judge agreed and the defendant was found NOT GUILTY for failing to yield.

So take a lesson from this case: just because you are GUILTY does not necessarily mean you are GUILTY (at least of the citation that you are cited for). Always consult a Tampa traffic attorney on your case!

So you’re whizzing down the interstate and as you crest a hill you see a State Trooper on the side of the road, outside of his or her car, talking to a civilian who has been pulled over. Traffic is thick as you approach the Trooper and you seemingly have nowhere to go. What to do, what to do??? It would be wise to do one of two things to avoid getting yourself a ticket accompanied by a tongue lashing.

1) Move over. Get in the farthest lane possible away from the officer to avoid any potential tragedy.

2) If you can’t move over, slow down. You must drop AT LEAST 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.

What many Florida drivers don’t know is that Florida has a law that requires the above recommendations. Under Florida Statute 316.126(1)(b), if one does not do one of the above, they can be issued a civil traffic infraction and have points assessed against their driving record. A variation of this law has been in effect in other states for years with Florida recently adopting this.

So, when you encounter a situation as above or when there is any emergency vehicle on the side of the road, do the person on the side of the road a favor and save yourself some money and move over. For more information on what to do if you are pulled over, or other traffic ticket issues, contact a Tampa traffic attorney at The Law Office of Jeffrey M. Rich today: 813-251-3330.

What most people view a formality can mean the difference between a criminal conviction on a person’s record and a not guilty. While most understand the concept that the burden to prove the case rests with the State Attorney’s office, there is one often overlooked element that can result in an acquittal of the defendant:

Identification.

The State must produce a witness who is able to come to court and identify the defendant as the person who committed the crime. In most cases this is just a formality; the witness will point to the defense table and identify the defendant, or in most cases just point at the person sitting next to lawyer. But what happens when you don’t make it that easy for the witness? What happens when the witness is required to use their memory from the date of the incident and not just rely on the person sitting next to Attorney or the person who was brought out in shackles?

In most cases an arrest is made after law enforcement determines that a crime has been committed. However in misdemeanor cases the law enforcement officer does have another option. The officer can issue “a notice to appear” in lieu of placing the defendant under arrest. The officer will give the defendant a citation with a court date that the defendant is required to be at. Since no arrest was made, no booking photo was taken. This can potentially create a problem for law enforcement months later when it comes time to identify the defendant at a trial.

Case in point:
Attorney Jeffrey M. Rich put the officer’s identification skills to a test in a recent misdemeanor trial in Hillsborough County. On the morning of trial, Attorney Rich met the defendant outside the court to address any last questions. What had already been discussed before they arrived at the court house was that once they entered the courtroom there would be no communication between them.

Jeff Rich and the defendant entered the courtroom separately. The defendant took a seat in the back of the courtroom that was filled with other spectators.  Attorney Rich approached the officer who issued the notice to appear and spoke with him about the case, and asked the officer if he would be able to identify the defendant. The officer responded that he was “pretty sure he could, and then when he walked to the front of the court room he would remember him”. At that point Attorney Rich took a seat in the front of the court and waited for the Judge to take the bench. Jeff Rich had already instructed the defendant to remain seated when the case was called and not to walk to front of the courtroom. The Judge took the bench and called the case, both sides the State and defense announced ready for trial. At that point the Judge inquired about the defendant’s whereabouts. Attorney Rich informed the Judge of the circumstances and his belief that the officer could not independently identify the defendant unless he walked to the front of the courtroom. Attorney Rich requested that the defendant be allowed to remain seated in the audience for the trial.  The Judge granted this request and told the State to call their first witness.

The Officer took the stand and began his testimony after a brief introduction the officer was asked if he could identify the defendant from the audience. The Officer responded that he could. At that point the State attorney asked the Officer to identify the defendant. The Officer pointed to an individual who was seated in second row of the audience and identified him by saying he was wearing a green tee-shirt. At that point Attorney Rich informed the court that that was not the defendant and asked for the case to be dismissed. The Judge asked for the defendant to come forward at that point an individual who was sitting in the last row and wearing a suit stood up and walked forward. The Judge dismissed all charges based on the defendant not being identified.

So, the issue of identification in some cases may not just be a formality: it can determine the ultimate outcome of a case.  If you’ve been charged with a felony or misdemeanor in the state of Florida, you need a lawyer that is going to look at every detail in order to give you the best defense possible.  Call the criminal defense attorneys at Jeffrey M. Rich today at 813-251-3330.

We’ve all seen “The Fast and the Furious” and quickly fallen in love with the speed and adrenaline Paul Walker and Vin Diesel provide as they make their hopped up power wagons do things that are seemingly impossible. Consequently, movies like this inspired thousands of people to buy a similar car and do their best to emulate Pauly Walnuts and Vinnie D as they zing down Tampa Bay’s highways. As this practice evolved, illegal drag strips were established and through word of mouth people became familiar with where and when to go in order to see these rocket ships on wheels fly up and down the road. Like any other red blooded American male, I have to agree that the spectacle these cars provide is entertaining, if not amazing. Clearly, I am not alone.

To many spectators’ surprise and dismay, as recently as a week ago St. Petersburg local police departments organized two stings in which they blocked off any reasonable method for escape and cited and/or arrested several people racing and observing the racing that occurred near Fourth Street North. Obviously the individuals that were participating in the actual racing were either cited or arrested for “Racing on the Highway,” a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of not less than $500 but not more than $1000. Equally as punitive is the fact that if a plea is entered to this charge, be it an adjudication of guilt or a withhold of adjudication, the defendant will receive a 1 year driver’s license revocation by the department of motor vehicles.

It was the spectators of the racing that likely received the biggest surprise of the evening, however. Despite never getting behind a wheel of one of the cars or even so much as kicking a tire, any spectator in attendance could be and likely was given a civil traffic infraction with the prospect of receiving 3 points on their driving record. According to Florida Statute 316.191, a “Spectator” means any person who is knowingly present at and views a drag race, when such presence is the result of an affirmative choice to attend or participate in the race. For purposes of determining whether or not an individual is a spectator, finders of fact shall consider the relationship between the racer and the individual, evidence of gambling or betting on the outcome of the race, and any other factor that would tend to show knowing attendance or participation. In English, if you are there to watch the racing, you can get a ticket.

Fair? As a Tampa criminal lawyer, that’s not my call. Clearly Florida’s Legislature has made this recent “spectator” addition in a policy effort to prevent people from showing up at the drag strip. They likely are assuming if we can cut out the fans, then the players won’t bother playing the game. Will this policy effort work? Probably not, as any policy decision to dissuade American’s from doing something they are hell bent on doing, typically works about as well as creating a lead airplane.

So, if you find yourself in the precarious situation of being charged with racing, or merely being a spectator at a race, it would behoove you to investigate the prospect of hiring an attorney well versed in traffic law. Nobody wants a criminal record, and for damn sure nobody wants to lose their license for a year. Less serious, but still significant, it’s not a good idea to allow points to accumulate on your driving record either. If you get too many in too short a time, you can also watch your driving privilege race away. Further, once your insurance company catches wind of the points on your license you can bank on your buddies at State Farm or that Geico lizard raising those rates.

Bottom line, be careful if you choose to race or watch illegal racing. Officer friendly generally gets his man, and their pretty good at what they do around here. But, if you do get saddled with a race related charge, pick up the phone and give us a call. As experienced traffic and misdemeanor attorneys in Tampa, we might just save your license.

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