After a DUI arrest in Florida, a person will be asked to submit a sample of their breath for analysis. Also referred to as taking the breath test. Upon refusing to provide a sample, the arresting officer is supposed to read a warning that the license will be suspended. Sometimes, people change their mind and provide a sample immediately. What if the officer says it is too late to blow and announces the arrestee has refused?
Almost every week I hear from people who have just been informed that they have been habitualized in the worst way. Apparently, ordinary people (not defense lawyers) trust the government and just pay a fine on a traffic ticket, especially when that fine is overdue. A common complaint will go something like this: "I just paid a ticket to get my license back and now I am being told that I am a Habitual Traffic Offender and my license is gone for five (5) years." Almost always the ticket that was paid recently is for driving on a suspended license.
There is no such thing as a traffic ticket for a moving violation being issued as "no points, no school". Unfortunately, cops on the road seem to be telling people that they can get no points by paying a citation. That is not true. (They give other misadvice too, see my blog on Bradford County Traffic Tickets). Paying a citation without talking to a lawyer first is the worst thing that you can do. This is because it is a plea of guilty, an admission to the offense, points will be assessed to your license, your insurance may increase and your guilty plea could be used against you later even if your guilty plea cannot be entered into evidence in another court proceeding. Entering a guilty plea by paying an infraction can be disastrous if you are accused of driving on a suspended license.
Bradford County is located between Gainesville in Alachua County and Jacksonville in Duval County, Florida. Several agencies issue traffic tickets within Bradford County. The main police agencies are those of Starke and Lawtey. The towns of Brooker and Hampton do not have their own police force and the towns traffic laws are enforced by the Bradford County Sheriff's Office. The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) also issues citatations on the roads of Bradford County. Starke is the county seat of Bradford County. All traffic hearings take place in Starke.
Traffic ticket defense can be rewarding and frustrating. Florida has 67 counties. That means 67 different ways of doing things. Then within those counties different judges and hearing officers with different assistants that all seem to like things done differently too. That is the frustrating part. This is also why it is important that if you want to hire a lawyer to handle your traffic citation that you select an attorney that is from the county or regularly practices within the county where you received the ticket. Consider whether you would drive from the other end of the state to either Marion County or Columbia County for the fee we charge. Do you really want an attorney from a big city down south handling your traffic case in Alachua County or Bradford County? If you are a CDL driver, and need an amendment to the citation to keep your job, this should be an important consideration.
Recently, the city of Waldo, in Alachua County, Florida disbanded its police department. This means that every person who has received a citation from any Waldo city police officer should take their citation to court. This is because I believe that many officers will not show in court. If the officer fails to appear, the traffic ticket will be dismissed.
A question that is regularly asked of me is whether officers and witnesses appear at traffic hearings. The communities of Gainesville, Waldo and Alachua (Alachua County) or Ocala, Belleview and Dunnellon (Marion County) or Starke and Lawtey (Bradford County) or Lake City (Columbia County) are very different than the communities in South Florida. My understanding is that no show rates are higher down south, regardless, here in North Florida, witnesses and officers do fail to appear.