Florida Traffic Tickets: Public Safety or Big Business?

Four million – that is approximately how many traffic tickets the state of Florida issues every year. FOUR MILLION! Think about what a huge number that is. That averages out to almost 60,000 traffic citations for every county in the state, although the amount number issued differs tremendously from county to county. Some counties issue a great deal more traffic citations than others based upon population and how stringent the law enforcement is in that specific county, but no matter how you look at it, that equals a huge amount of revenue for the state.

Keep in mind that most of these tickets are the result of speeding, therefore, they have widely varying fines depending upon the county you are in when you get the speeding citation and by how much you have exceeded the speed limit. When you combine the millions of traffic citations written and factor in the speeding ticket variable, this creates quite a prolific industry. In fact, although traffic citations are a multi-billion dollar industry on a national scale, one television investigation determined that from early 2011 through early 2012, the state of Florida alone received more than $101 million in traffic fines. This is just the amount that the state got and doesn’t include whatever portion of the traffic fines that was divided up with the cities or counties in which they were written.

Law enforcement agencies use much of these funds to hire more enforcement officers to keep the wheels of this financial machine moving, and it’s not just the law enforcement agencies who write traffic citations that realize financial rewards either. When you consider the number of entities that benefit from this revenue, it is easy to see that this is a profit-motivated system that thrives off of what is often just human error. Public and private agencies, just like law enforcement, get a piece of this financial pie. These agencies include court systems, city and state governments, insurance companies, and traffic ticket camera companies. Here just a few of the ways that these profits are used:

• The budget of the Clerk of Court in the areas in which the citation was written is frequently affected by the amount of fines and penalties it receives.

• The state anticipates a certain amount of revenue from traffic citations which is also uses to balance its budget.

• Insurance companies use these traffic citations as a means to classify someone as a “high risk” driver to justify raising insurance rates which is the catalyst for automobile insurance becoming a multi-billion dollar industry. This is certainly great motivation to claim to support safety programs and donate various speed detection devices to police agencies. The millions of dollars they may spend on these devices is just a small percentage of the profits they stand to gain by more traffic citations being issued. Additionally, although insurance companies often claim that enforcing traffic laws is in the interest of public safety, there is really very evidence to substantiate that there is a correlation between infrequently getting a traffic ticket and posing a greater risk of causing a traffic accident.

• Traffic ticket camera companies are, in my mind, the most odious of all of these as they are private companies that are strictly for-profit and cannot effectively argue that their interests are in “public safety.”

• Let’s not forget the ancillary beneficiaries such as the companies who make speed detection devices, traffic schools, and so on.

With all of these groups looking to make financial gains off of hapless drivers, it is not surprising that traffic tickets are just one more multi-million dollar Florida business. That’s right – a business, not a public safety concern. It’s a business that, at $150 or more per traffic citation, proliferates so greatly that many municipalities try to obfuscate the true numbers about how much profit is involved. Not only do they then have to share less of the funds received, but it helps to try to keep average drivers from becoming outraged at how much money they are bilked out of through traffic ticket practices that can often be less than ethical.

One such example of questionable ethical behavior on the part of law enforcement is when someone is stopped for a traffic violation, but is arrested on a greater charge such as marijuana possession. In such a case, the issuance of the traffic ticket would not be included in traffic violation statistical data. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of statistics quickly realizes that this practice skews the data that is presented regarding traffic citation information.

In effort to keep this tremendous profit-driven scheme in motion, the legislature has to pass laws that allow cops to stop drivers for any arbitrary reason they choose. Something as seemingly insignificant as “improper lane change” is legal grounds to pull someone over and allow the police officer to look for other possible reasons to write citations. When you couple this with other factors such as the legal system projecting the image that anyone with a traffic ticket or two as a bad driver and a menace on the roadways, it acts as justification to keep those ever-increasing fines to be continuously rolling in. If our lawmakers can keep these fines to a level that will curtail the majority of ticketed drivers from fighting back against the system, they can continue to expect this golden goose to keep producing to their benefit. They do so knowing that most drivers who receive traffic citations are at a disadvantage when fighting these tickets, which makes the inequity involved in the entire traffic law process patently clear.

Yes, it is true that even attorneys get their portion of funds created by the issuance of traffic tickets. Specifically, traffic ticket attorneys make our living by representing drivers who receive traffic citations. I do, however, believe that most do so for the same reason that we at the Traffic Ticket Team do – because we feel that the average driver is taken advantage of by the system because it is a system that is set up so that the odds are stacked against anyone who gets a traffic citation. This is why, unless you are quite savvy in the courtroom, it is usually beneficial to you to hire a traffic ticket attorney. We are here to make sure that you have every advantage possible when fighting a traffic ticket, so give us a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation.

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