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Archive for the ‘Traffic Citation’ category

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.

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.

Buckle Up and Shut Up

June 23rd, 2009

Just when you thought it couldn’t be any easier for Police in Florida to detain automobile drivers in an effort to ferret out crime, guess what?  Starting June 30, 2009 Florida will put into effect a new law which will allow the Police to cite an individual for driving without a seatbelt on, even if no other violations are cited.  Prior to this law the Police could issue a civil citation for failure to wear a seat belt, but could not use this violation as reason to stop a motorist.  With the June 30th change, FL will join 27 other states in classifying this law as a “primary seatbelt law” allowing stops for no other reason but for a lack of a seatbelt being worn by a driver or passenger.

Prior to this law going into effect, an officer had to develop probable cause to pull one over for a civil traffic infraction.  This premise was laid out in Whren v. US, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), where the court said that if an officer has probable cause to stop a motorist for even a minor traffic violation, the stop is lawful and the evidence obtained afterwards as a result of the stop is admissible in court.  Thus, even if an officer may have suspected that a criminal activity was occurring, if an officer “could stop” the vehicle for a minor traffic infraction he would have just cause to stop that vehicle and potentially further investigate the suspected crime.  The Whren decision essentially eliminated any real likelihood of a traffic stop being invalid as being pretextual as now all an officer had to do was note that he “could stop” the motorist for a traffic infraction. 

In addition to making a traffic stop for probable cause for a traffic infraction, an officer could detain a motorist if there is a well founded and an articulated rationale that there is reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot.  Thus, if an officer believes someone is committing a crime in a vehicle, can articulate his reason why he thinks so, and his suspicion is reasonable, he can detain a vehicle for investigatory purposes.   

So, what are the potential criminal implications with this new “primary seatbelt law?”  Basically, an officer can pull a motorist over he believes is committing a crime if all he has as a reason for a stop is that he notices that person not wearing a seatbelt.  While making contact with the driver he may detect certain things that lead him further to believe that criminal activity is going on and thus he may inquire.  Whereas before a motorist may dodge a bullet in that an officer may not be able to develop probable cause that a traffic infraction has occurred or reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, all the officer needs now is to notice a lack of a seatbelt and he has his lawful reason for a stop and avoids any reasonable possibility that his stop could be deemed pretextual.  In essence, deciding not to wear a seatbelt could act as probable cause to be detained.  This detainment could lead to more serious charges should the motorist be up to no good. 

Moral of the story you ask?  If you’ve had a little too much to drink or have just paid a visit to one of Pablo Escobar’s associates, buckle up and if pulled over, shut up.  Nothing you say to the officer is going to do you any favors.  The Police aren’t in the business of “helping you out” or “cutting you a break.”  If you run your yap, what you say WILL be used against you later down the road.  I’ve never met an officer or a prosecutor that didn’t love a defendant that was a chatterbox.  A simple click could very well be the difference in you making it home, or making it to one of Florida’s finest vacation destinations — with a DUI or other felony charge.  So, put the belt on.  It could very well save your life or even a trip to jail.

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