Tag Archives: Traffic Ticket

Brooksville Resident Aims to get Rid of Red Light Cameras

The arguments about the value of red light cameras in cities across Florida continue. The cameras have been installed in many cities across the United States and are designed to catch drivers who pass through a red light at an intersection. There seems to be no debate about their ability to make money for the municipal authority that uses them. In 2012, Florida red light cameras made over $100 million in fines, shared between the manufacturers and operators of the cameras and the city authorities who use them.

Now, a resident of Brooksville is trying to get the city to ban red light cameras and is out waving a sign in and around the city to advertise the petition she is trying to get signed by those who agree with her.  Shirley Miketinac and her husband Pat have spent many evenings at city council meetings trying to persuade councilors to get the cameras removed and end the association with the company that makes and operates them, Sensys America. They believe that many residents of the city do not want them and feel intimidated by their use. They also think that drivers would be less likely to go through a red light at an intersection if the time allocated for the yellow light was lengthened. Increasing the speed allowed for a right turn on red would also reduce the need for cameras, according to the Miketinac’s.

Another similar move has come from businessman and one time political aspirant, Robert Osmond. He has been collecting signatures from Brooksville residents to get the red light camera question on the next general election ballot paper. He needs 477 verifiable signatures to achieve this and says he already has around half of those signatures.

The election is due to be held in November next year and the contract with Sensys is up for renewal a month beforehand, so Osmond thinks the red light camera issue will be a sensitive one for candidates at the election.

According to the Florida Department of Revenue, Brooksville’s red light cameras netted over a million dollars in revenue for the year July 2012 to July 2013. The revenue comes from the $158 fines that are given to drivers who are caught by the cameras. Half of the revenue goes to Sensys and the other half to the municipal authorities.

The controversy about the use of red light cameras has been on going for some years now and is certainly not confined to Brooksville. A couple of years ago, a Tampa Bay news station reported that officials in Florida had reduced the length of time that yellow lights operated below U.S. federal minimum recommendations so that infractions would more likely happen. The report cited that a half second reduction would double the number of red light camera citations and therefore a doubling of revenue collected because of them.

The report also mentioned that at a single intersection, the time allocated for the yellow light was increased from 3 to 4.3 seconds, resulting in a massive drop (90%) of citations being issued.

Most drivers who get a citation from a red light camera find it hard to fight the charge, as the license plates are normally caught by the camera. The fine is payable by whoever the car is registered to. The only advantage of red light cameras to drivers who get citations for red light offenses is that they do not lead to points being added to the license and insurance companies are not notified of the offense, so insurance rates are unlikely to be affected.

While few traffic citation lawyers advise fighting a red light camera citation, the situation is certainly different for citations handed out by a police officer. These will incur 3 points on your license, if you plead guilty that could mean a loss of license if you have enough points. It will also mean a rise in your insurance rates once the conviction is notified. If you do get a traffic citation which is likely to have a serious effect on your life, the best thing you can do is to plead not guilty and get a traffic ticket attorney to help you fight the ticket.

Hillsborough County Drivers Ignore Florida’s Move Over Law

Injuries to two Hillsborough county Police Officers who had stopped by the side of the road last week highlighted the continuing issue of the Florida’s “move over” law. It appears that a significant number of drivers and motorcyclists are either ignoring the law or are unaware of it.

The “move over” law was introduced in Florida in 2002. Basically, it covers emergency vehicles, police vehicles and tow trucks that have stopped on the side of any road or highway in the state and have their lights flashing. The law requires traffic coming up from behind to keep one lane clear of the vehicle or vehicles or reduce speed by 20 mph. An infringement of the law can be punished by a $153 fine in the county as well as points added to a driver’s license.

Last week’s injuries happened when two officers had stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 75 to question a motorcyclist. Another motorcyclist was unable to maintain control as he approached and slammed into the passenger side of the patrol car, injuring the two officers. The two injured officers are still recovering at home with broken legs and other injuries.

A similar accident happened in 2009, when another officer was quite badly injured by an out of control vehicle that hadn’t kept clear of the stopped patrol car that had been parked on the median so that a motorcyclist could be helped. The officer’s neck and shoulder were injured in the accident.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, over 170 law enforcement officers have been killed by vehicles hitting them while they were either parked on the median strip or on the hard shoulder at the side of a highway across the country.

Hillsborough County’s Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Troy Morgan, said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Tribune recently that many drivers he had stopped for failing to obey the rule had thought that they did not have to move over or slow down if there was nobody standing by the side of the parked vehicle. Sergeant Morgan apparently explained the law clearly in these circumstances and didn’t actually hand out any tickets. He said that many drivers did not fully understand that even if there was nobody outside of a parked vehicle, someone could get out at any minute.

Drivers may be confused about exactly when they have to slow down or move over, but ignorance of the law is not a good defense tactic if you do get a ticket and, according to the County’s Sheriff’s Office, it could mean that somebody gets injured or even killed when they have an already difficult job to do. Sergeant Morgan said that it was not illegal to maintain speed or lane if the vehicle wasn’t in one of the three categories already mentioned above, but it is good manners and plain common sense. In the two and a half years between the middle of January 2011 and the middle of October this year, 295 citations were handed out for “move over” law infringements in Hillsborough County alone.

Some drivers who were interviewed by the Tribune said that it was often difficult to slow down quickly if they suddenly came across an emergency vehicle and would have moved over a lane, if they could. There were a number of drivers who appeared to be ignorant of the speed change aspect of the law while one driver interviewed thought that only around half of the people he observed took notice of the requirement.

Ocala Cop Arrested for Forging a Traffic Ticket

An Ocala woman was left wondering how many people across Florida are at the receiving end of a forged traffic ticket after the ticket that got her nearly arrested was discovered to have been fraudulently written out by a traffic officer.

The woman, 36 year old Shautauqua Scott, discovered through her sister that she had been issued a citation for driving with a suspended driver license and decided to find out what had happened as she had no knowledge of any such citation being signed by her.

A visit to the Ocala Police Station and an interview with Sergeant Chas Maier revealed that a police officer who had been serving with the Ocala Police Department for three years had allegedly forged her signature on a traffic ticket.

The officer, Daniel Fitzpatrick, decided to hand himself in voluntarily after the forgery had been discovered and has now been arrested himself on what could turn out to be a serious charge of forgery, which is a third degree felony charge. Scott has been described as having had nothing but commendations and good reviews on his record up to now.

The woman whose signature had been forged said that the officer had stopped her at an intersection and warned her for not stopping at a stop sign, but had not actually given her a citation. Stop sign violations are traffic offenses in Florida which can mean 3 points on your license and a fine. As points accumulate on a license it is quite possible for a single violation like this to tip a driver over the threshold and lead to a license suspension.

In this particular case, what was strange was that the citation issued by the officer was for a suspended license, not for a stop sign violation. The forgery was revealed after Sergeant Maier was able to view video footage of the encounter between Scott and officer Fitzpatrick and view the ticket still held at the station. Apparently, the video shows the officer giving Ms Scott a warning, but there is no evidence of a citation being written out. Ms. Scott had a look at the signature on the ticket and claimed that it was not hers, even though it was quite similar. A police department official was reported saying that Fitzpatrick had issued the forged ticket to avoid getting into trouble for not actually issuing a ticket on the spot.

Scott said that it was lucky that her sister had seen the posting of the citation online, otherwise she would have missed the court appearance and could have had an arrest warrant out in her name.

This particular incident is unusual and it is unlikely that if you have been given a citation, that it has been forged. However, it does show that you have to be very careful of any traffic ticket that you receive and not to take them at face value. Many traffic offenses are based on subjective judgment made by a police officer by the roadside and an alleged offense could be challenged in court with the help of an experienced traffic ticket attorney.

There are few traffic citations that in fact cannot be challenged. Examples would include citations for red light violations at intersections controlled by red light cameras. Unless there has been a mistake in the registration or name, it is hard to defend these citations. In any event, they usually only involve a fine, a bit like a parking ticket. There is no points penalty and your insurance company will not be informed.

If you do receive a traffic citation which does not seem to be fair or you are suspicious about its validity, then you can raise the issue with a traffic attorney who can help you get the charge dismissed if possible or have the penalties reduced in severity.