New Florida law boosts traffic fines to bolster budget

| 2/3/2009

Officials in Florida have figured out a way to squeeze out a few more dollars from traffic violators.

Meeting during a special budget-cutting session early this year, lawmakers endorsed legislation to raise the cost of all traffic tickets by $10 while speeders would pay $25 more. Gov. Charlie Crist signed the bill, S12-A, into law and it now is in effect.

The law also eliminates an 18 percent discount available to offenders who attend traffic school. Judges also are prohibited from waiving fines.

The extra money for the state is expected to reach $16 million this year and $63 million in 2010. There isn’t much wrong with tapping traffic violators for a little extra to help plug a $2.3 billion budget hole in Florida except for one thing: The revenue isn’t being routed to transportation. It’s headed to a fund created to pay public defenders and prosecutors.

Supporters said the changes will help the state’s financially strapped court system as well as possibly deter dangerous driving.

Critics countered that the economic condition of many motorists makes it difficult for them to afford higher fees. They also questioned whether the punishment fits the crime.

Others said that law enforcement would be more likely to issue warnings rather than issue pricey tickets that drivers cannot afford.

The base fine for all moving and non-moving traffic violations, including failure to buckle up and running red lights, will increase $10.

Base fines for driving 15 to 19 mph over the speed limit will increase from $125 to $150. Speeding in excess of 20 to 29 mph over the limit will result in $175 fines, up from $150.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Florida in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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