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Traffic ticket in Miami-Dade County?

What to do when you get a traffic ticket in Miami-Dade County

Everyone hates getting a traffic ticket. When it happens in Miami-Dade County, you might end up getting a stack of tickets all in one traffic stop. Because twelve points on your license in twelve months will result in a suspension of your license, you probably do not want to just pay the ticket. Paying the ticket is an admission of your guilt, and will result in points on your license. Instead, be sure to take the following steps to be certain that your license will not be affected.

  • Request a Trial

When you receive your citation, it will be provided to you in a sleeve that looks like this.  On the very last page is a portion that says request a trial. Fill out this portion, and mail it to the Clerk of Courts, P.O. Box 19321, Miami, Florida 33101-9321. You must do this within thirty days. If you do not send the request in on time, the result is that you may have no choice but to accept the points and fine. If more time passes, your license may be suspended. It is very important to send in this request.

  • Decide whether to hire a lawyer

Deciding whether to hire a lawyer depends on your circumstances. I would suggest considering the question like this:

Deciding Whether to Hire an Attorney Infographic

  • Collect your evidence

Be aware that the police officer is going to testify about what he or she saw that led to the traffic ticket. You collect the evidence in your favor to support your side of the argument. Some ideas for evidence to help you in your case:

  • Photographs of the location – these can help if you could not see a sign advising you to slow down or stop, and you were ticketed for failure to obey the notification
  • Photographs of your car – these can help if you received a ticket for obstructed view, in order to prove that you could see, or if the condition of the car was the issue
  • Passengers in your car at the time of the infraction – these people will testify on your behalf as witnesses that you did not commit the infraction
  • Evidence of compliance – If you received a ticket for an infraction like not having proof of insurance, lapsed registration, or having a headlight or tail-light that is not functioning, obtain your proof of insurance, update your registration, or fix the lights in your car. Bring proof that you fixed the problem, (receipts, insurance card, registration, etc.) and you may be able to get your ticket dismissed.

Provide your evidence to your attorney, or organize it for your future use.

  • Attend Pretrial Conference

You will receive a notice of Pretrial Conference in the mail. If you have retained an attorney, provide this notice to the attorney’s staff. The attorney will attend this for you and you will not need to go to this pretrial conference.

If you did not hire an attorney, be sure to write down the date, time, address, and court room number that are on the notice, and show up early. There can be a long line to get into the courthouse, because you must pass through security. Do not bring any weapons to the courthouse, including small pocketknives. Avoid belts and shoes that alert metal detectors to speed up this process. (You do not want to be walking barefoot with your pants falling down through security!) Then, make your way to the courtroom. The attorneys usually are allowed to bring their cases before the hearing officer or judge first. You may wait as long as thirty minutes before your case is called in alphabetical order.

At this point, you will be asked to come forward to speak to the judge or hearing officer. The presiding judge or hearing officer will ask you “How do you plead?” and you will have the chance to say “Guilty,” “Not Guilty” or “No Contest.” The plea of “No Contest” means that you are not admitting guilt, but you are not going to argue against the charges. If you have proof of compliance, you should tell the judge and the judge will look it over. If you have indeed fixed the problem that you were ticketed for, the judge may dismiss the ticket right away.

If you definitely committed the infraction or you have no evidence to the contrary, you might ask the judge “What is the offer?” This is how to ask the court what your cost or fine will be if you plead “No Contest.” In Miami-Dade County, the court costs and fines vary, but the court will often waive points on your license or traffic school. Depending on whether you want to go to trial, you might just accept the plea and be happy about the points being taken off your record. If not, you would say, “No thank you, please set this matter for trial.”

  • Attend Trial

Whether you hired a lawyer or not, you should attend the trial. Sometimes the police officer misses the court appointment, and you win by default. (Meaning your case is dismissed.) If the police officer shows up, and you are polite and respectful, the officer may decide not to prosecute you and dismiss the case. If the officer does decide to prosecute the matter, they will speak first. They will say to the court what happened from their point of view that resulted in your receiving a ticket. Be patient and respectful while the officer is speaking. Then you will have your turn to speak.

At this point, your attorney or you can ask the officer specific questions about the situation. The attorney will have lots of experience with this, and might bring up all kinds of facts that you might not know to think of yourself. If you have chosen to defend yourself, do your best but do not attack the officer. This is not “A Few Good Men.”

When it is your turn to speak, tell your side of the story in chronological order. Try to speak slowly and clearly so everyone can understand you. If you have pictures or other evidence, show them to the police officer before you provide them to the bailiff or clerk, and then the bailiff or clerk will give the evidence to the judge.

At the end, the judge will rule either for or against you. If you lost your trial without a lawyer, you may be able to have the case heard a second time, on the basis that you did not have a lawyer. If this is granted, then you will definitely need to hire a lawyer. If you win your trial, congratulations! Next you will go to the Clerk of Court’s office to obtain your “disposition.” This can take a long time, depending on the length of the line. You will take a number and be called up to collect your final judgment.

When I first started practicing law, I used to handle traffic tickets so I would get more comfortable in a real courtroom and practice my skills for presenting evidence. We still receive a lot of requests from people who need help with traffic matters. However, we have decided to focus on business law, especially for creative, technology and social benefit entrepreneurs and organizations. We highly recommend Frank Menendez, a fellow graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, who provides excellent professional service in the area of traffic ticket defense. Learn more about Ticket Fit, Frank Menendez’s traffic ticket defense law firm.

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