The Florida Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: January 11, 2021

No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.

After receiving a Florida traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away?  Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.

Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?

  • Hire an attorney?
  • Talk to the court?
  • Take a driver safety course?

(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)

You Got a Ticket. Now What?

Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.

It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.

You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.

I Ignored a Ticket and it Was Fine, Until it Got Awkward (and Expensive)

You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.

You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?

Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight

Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?

The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with Florida attorney” and see how many results you get.

Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like

“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”

Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.

These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.

“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”

Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?

If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…

“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”

The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:

  • Spend time researching traffic lawyers and hire one. Once you’ve paid the required fees, the attorney will:
    • Request a contested hearing
    • Request discovery for your case
    • Represent you in court
    • Negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dropped or reduced 

Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.

But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…

You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request one of three things:

  • A mitigation hearing
  • A contested hearing
  • Permission to take a driver safety course

A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.

A contested hearing is one you attend with the purpose of getting the conviction overturned.

Requesting permission to take a driver safety course is exactly what it sounds like.

For most minor violations, traffic courts in Florida may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a traffic school course.

These decisions are made on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of your violation and your previous driving history. The court’s considerations include things like:

  • If you have dismissed a ticket with a driver safety course before and, if so, when?
  • Was your ticket written for excessive speed over the posted limit? (Generally 25+ MPH over)
  • Was your ticket written in a school or work zone?
  • Do you hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?

If the answer to these questions is no, you’re generally good to go.

If the court does grant permission, you will be given information as to how the process works, including:

  • The type of course you will need to take
  • The date by which that course must be completed
  • If you will need to provide any other documentation
  • If there are additional fees you may owe

IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a traffic school course before receiving permission. You’ll wind up paying for a second one and starting all over. Also, while most courts will accept an online course, you’ll want to make very sure your court will.

Taking Your Florida Traffic School Course

All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:

  • Florida traffic law
  • Safe driving techniques
  • How to avoid an accident
  • How to handle an emergency
  • How to share the road safely with others

At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.

Florida drivers who complete traffic school may be eligible for one of the following benefits:

  • Traffic ticket dismissal
  • Fulfillment of a court order
  • The possibility of lower insurance premiums

You can find traffic school courses taught both live in classrooms and online.  Online is often the more convenient option because it can be worked on wherever and whenever the student has the time.

Most courts in Florida will dismiss tickets with traffic school if you meet their qualifications.  Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must hold a valid Florida driver’s license
  • You must not have more than one current violation
  • Your citation must not have been received while driving a commercial vehicle

If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for ticket dismissal. In some cases, depending on the severity of your violation and previous driving history, you may be required to take traffic school as a part of your sentencing.

In either case, you will receive procedural instructions from your court about which course you must take, the date the course must be completed, and any additional fines, fees, or documents you may need to submit.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on individual circumstances, some drivers may not be approved for ticket dismissal with a driver safety class, but it never hurts to ask!

If Your Court Says Yes

Florida HSMV-Approved Traffic School

Florida traffic school can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).

For most busy folks, an online traffic school course makes the most sense. Taking your course this way allows you to complete it all at once or a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Online traffic school is fast becoming the first choice for many Florida drivers. Start your search with some of Florida’s top online providers.

Best FLHSMV-Approved Traffic Schools

Website Name Phone
IDriveSafely.com I Drive Safely 800-723-1955
DefensiveDriving.com Florida Defensive Driving 713-488-4035
Aceable.com Aceable 855-982-9444
TrafficSchool101.com Traffic School 101 800-373-7313
DriveSafeToday.com Drive Safe Today 800-991-0310
NTSI.com National Traffic Safety Institute 888-497-4499
FloridaOnlineTrafficSchool.com American Safety Council 800-732-4135
DriveSafeOnline.com DriveSafe Inc. 866-544-2732
FloridaFunTrafficSchool.com Florida Fun Traffic School 866-455-8054
BestPriceTrafficSchool.com Best Price Traffic School 888-810-0119
ComedyDefensiveDriving.com USA Training Company Inc 866-531-9055
Safe2Drive.com Safe2Drive 800-763-1297
AmericanSafetyInstitute.com American Safety Institute 800-800-7121
LowestPriceTrafficSchool.com Lowest Price Traffic School 800-729-1495
DriveSafe.com National Safety Council 800-237-0676
BDI.FloridaSafety.com Florida Safety Council 800-372-3335
FunnyInFlorida.com Funny in Florida 800-998-8533
ComedyDrivingTrafficSchool.com Comedy Driving Traffic School 866-357-2020
GoldTrafficSchool.com Gold Traffic School (Miami-Dade County Citations Only) 866-988-5251
WiseTrafficSchool.com Wise Traffic School 877-885-8843
TooCoolTrafficSchool.com Too Cool Traffic School (Hillsborough County Only) 813-602-1555
TrafficSchoolOnline.com Traffic School Online 800-800-3579
HighwayTrafficSchool.com Highway Traffic School 442-500-8445
123Driving.com Florida Driver’s Association 888-272-1493
DriveSafeOnline.com Drive Safe Online 888-497-4499
TicketSchool.com Driver Training Associates, Inc 800-222-9199

 

Other Florida HSMV Required Courses

The state of Florida will require you to complete one of their special driver improvement courses in the following circumstances. Regular traffic school won’t help if…

  • You are guilty of multiple traffic violations
  • Your driver’s license has been suspended
  • You are at fault in multiple traffic accidents

If you are the cause of the three accidents within 36 months, you will need to complete at least 12 hours of a specialized Driver Change course or other advanced driver improvement course and at least 4 hours of behind the wheel training with a driving instructor.

More Questions? We Have More Answers!

If this is your first time taking a Florida traffic school course, or it’s been a minute since your last one, here is some more useful information just in case.

How long do you have to complete traffic school in Florida?

Depending on the court, a driver has 60-90 days from the date of the citation days to complete a course and provide proof of completion to the court. Each Florida county has different traffic school procedures, so make sure you are aware of your court’s particulars.

How can I get points off my license in Florida?

Unfortunately, your past sins cannot be forgiven meaning that, if there are points currently on your record, they will remain. Moving forward, your only opportunity to keep points off your record after a violation is to complete an FLHSMV approved traffic school course.

Most Florida moving violations carry a value of 3-4 driving record points. Accumulate enough points in a short enough period of time, and you risk having your license suspended for up to a year.

How long do points stay on your license in FL?

Points from violations remain on a driver’s record for at least five years from the date of conviction. Cumulative points accumulated over certain periods of time will result in a license suspension.

  • 12 points in 12 months will result in a 30-day suspension
  • 18 points in 18 months will result in a 90-day suspension
  • 24 points in 36 months will result in a 1-year suspension

Point totals in excess of those listed can result in the revocation of your license.

Can I fight a red light camera ticket in Florida?

If you have received a red light ticket in Florida, there are three possible ways to contest it.

  • Submit a notarized affidavit asserting it wasn’t you behind the wheel
  • Contest the citation by requesting a hearing
  • Appeal the decision to a higher court

The approach you take will depend on the jurisdiction where you received the ticket. The good news is that a red light camera ticket is a civil, not criminal, offense. That means that even if your appeal isn’t successful, there won’t be any points added to your driving record.