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.
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