The Florida Guide to Dealing with Traffic Tickets

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: December 15, 2023

Whether 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?

(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.

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:

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 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.

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 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:

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:

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:

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:

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 DHSMV-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 (DHSMV). There are steps you will need to follow to ensure your ticket is properly dealt with. Be careful here! Missing one can result in more fines and the citation appearing on your driving record.

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

If you’ve done any looking at all, you know there are WAY more than five online traffic schools in Florida. If you are curious, we have reviews of these five and a current list of all current Florida online traffic school providers.

Other Florida DHSMV Required Courses

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

If you are the cause of the three accidents within 36 months, you must complete a 12-hour 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 know your court’s particulars.

How can I get points off my license in Florida?

Unfortunately, your past sins cannot be forgiven, meaning they will remain if there are points currently on your record. Moving forward, your only opportunity to keep points off your record after a violation is to complete a Florida DHSMV-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.

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.

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.

All the FL DHSMV-Approved BDI Schools (We Know Of!)