Florida Rules of Traffic Court for Criminal Offenses

Many of the Florida Rules of Traffic Court apply to criminal offenses as opposed to civil traffic infractions. Specifically, Section III covers the criminal offense rules in traffic court. The rules were last revised on January 1, 2016.

Florida's Rules of Traffic Court govern the procedures in any traffic case and specifically apply to practice and procedure in county courts. The rules under Part III apply to all criminal traffic offenses, whether prosecuted in the name of the state or any subdivision of the state. 

Criminal violations of the traffic laws in Florida require a mandatory court appearance in front of the judge. The most common traffic crimes prosecuted in the State of Florida including charges such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving with a Suspended License and Reckless Driving.

If your first court date is not listed on the citation, then the clerk of court will mail a notice to the address on your traffic ticket when the arraignment is scheduled. The failure to appear at the date and time indicated on the notice may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and/or your license being suspended.

Attorney for Criminal Traffic Offenses in West Palm Beach, FL

Don't go to court alone. Although you might decide to represent yourself on a civil traffic violation, criminal charges are not a good do-it-yourself-project. If you are charged with a crime in traffic court or a county court in Florida, then seek out the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney. An attorney can often help you avoid a criminal record and save you money in the short run and the long run.

If you were charged with a criminal traffic offense in West Palm Beach, FL, or the surrounding areas in Palm Beach County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Meltzer & Bell, P.A.. Call (561) 283-3259 today for a free consultation to discuss the unique facts of your case. 

Call (561) 283-3259 today for a free consultation to discuss the unique facts of your case. 


6.160. PRACTICE AS IN CRIMINAL RULES

Except as provided, the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure shall govern this part [of Florida Rules of Traffic Court]. A defendant shall be considered “taken into custody” for the purpose of rule 3.191 when the defendant is arrested, or when a traffic citation, notice to appear, summons, information, or indictment is served on the defendant in lieu of arrest.

Committee Notes

1988 Amendment. The purpose of the change was to make clear that both pretrial and trial procedures,under this part, are governed by the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, unless there is a conflict. The previous rule had only applied to “trial” — and the committee felt that pretrial and post-trial procedures should also apply.


RULE 6.165. COMPLAINT; SUMMONS; FORM; USE

(a) Uniform Traffic Citation.

All prosecutions for criminal traffic offenses by law enforcement officers shall be by uniform traffic citation as provided for in section 316.650, Florida Statutes, or other applicable statutes, or by affidavit, information, or indictment as provided for in the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. If prosecution is by affidavit, information, or indictment, a uniform traffic citation shall be prepared by the arresting officer at the direction of the prosecutor or, in the absence of the arresting officer, by the prosecutor and submitted to the department.

(b) Amendment of Citation.

The court may allow the prosecutor to amend in open court a traffic citation alleging a criminal traffic offense to state a different traffic offense. No new traffic citation need be issued by the arresting officer. The court shall grant additional time to the defendant for the purpose of preparing a defense if the amendment has prejudiced the defendant. Committee Notes1988 Amendment. It was felt that due process required the court to grant a continuance to the defendant

Committee Notes

1988 Amendment. It was felt that due process required the court to grant a continuance to the defendant as a matter of right, if the amendment prejudiced the defendant. The committee felt that this should be mandatory and not discretionary.


RULE 6.180. SENTENCING REPEAT OFFENDERS

(a) Defendant’s Rights.

A defendant alleged to have a prior conviction for a criminal traffic offense shall have a right to remain silent concerning any prior conviction at the time of plea or sentence.(b) Proof of Prior Convictions. If the right to remain silent is invoked

(b) Proof of Prior Convictions.

If the right to remain silent is invoked by the defendant, the state shall have a reasonable time, if requested, to determine if any prior convictions exist. If the state is unable to prove any prior convictions, the defendant shall be treated as if no prior convictions exist.(c) Suspension by Department. This provision shall not prevent

(c) Suspension by Department.

This provision shall not prevent the department from suspending a defendant’s driving privilege for a longer period than the court has entered if a prior record is discovered by the department.

Committee Notes

1988 Adoption. Rule 6.180 is new and is designed to codify existing procedures in DUI cases. The rule sets forth what has become known as a “Meehan plea.” Meehan v. State, 397 So.2d 1214 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).1992 Amendment. Makes a “Meehan plea” applicable to all criminal traffic offenses.

1988 Adoption. Rule 6.180 is new and is designed to codify existing procedures in DUI cases. The rule sets forth what has become known as a “Meehan plea.” Meehan v. State, 397 So.2d 1214 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).

1992 Amendment. Makes a “Meehan plea” applicable to all criminal traffic offenses.


RULE 6.183. PEREMPTORY CHALLENGES

In every jury trial in which a defendant is charged with a violation of section316.193, Florida Statutes, each party shall have 3 peremptory challenges, but the trial court, in the interest of justice, in its discretion may permit additional challenges.

Committee Notes

1988 Adoption. This rule was initially drafted to allow 6 peremptory challenges per side in all DUI trials on the basis that the penalties in a DUI were normally more severe than most third-degree felonies, that the trial was as complicated as any second-degree felony, and that it was also subject to extreme jury prejudice due to “media blitz” publicity and the pressures from citizen action groups, as well as the numbers of prospective jurors who were nondrinkers or had religious reasons against drinking. The proposed rule met with strong opposition from the committee as drafted, with an almost even split vote. An amendment was proposed, which is the above rule as written, which satisfied all members of the committee, as it was recognized that the outlined problems existed, and the committee felt that a rule was needed to affirmatively show that additional peremptories should be freely granted by the court when the need arises.


RULE 6.190. PROCEDURE ON FAILURE TO APPEAR; WARRANT; NOTICE

(a) Issuance of Warrants.

The court may direct the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of any resident of this state, or any non-resident on whom process may be served in this state, who fails to appear and answer a criminal traffic complaint or summons lawfully served on such person and against whom a complaint or information has been filed. The warrant shall be directed to all law enforcement officers, state, county, and municipal, in the state and may be executed in any county in this state.

(b) Warrant Not Issued or Served; Disposition of Case.

If a warrant is not issued or is not served within 30 days after issuance, the court may place the case in an inactive file or file of cases disposed of and shall report only bond forfeiture cases and cases finally adjudicated to the driver license issuing authority of the department. For all other purposes, including final disposition reports, the cases shall be reported as disposed of, subject to being reopened if thereafter the defendant appears or is apprehended.

(c) Nonresident of State; Failure to Appear or Answer Summons.

If a defendant is not a resident of this state and fails to appear or answer a traffic complaint, the clerk of the court or the court shall send notice to the defendant at the address stated in the complaint and to the department. The department shall send notice to the license issuing agency in the defendant’s home state. If the defendant fails to appear or answer within 30 days after notice is sent, the court shall place the case in an inactive file or file of cases disposed of, subject to being reopened if thereafter the defendant appears or answers or a warrant is issued and served.

(d) Forfeiture of Bail.

The waiting period imposed herein shall not affect any proceedings for forfeiture of bail.


RULE 6.200.PLEAS AND AFFIDAVITS OF DEFENSE

(a) Record of Pleas. 

All pleas entered in open court shall be recorded by an official court reporter or electronic means, unless the defendant signs a written waiver of this right.

(b) Written Pleas of Guilty or Nolo Contendere. 

Subject to the approval of the court, written pleas of guilty or nolo contendere may be entered in criminal traffic offenses not designated felonies under the laws of the state, and sentence imposed thereon.

(c) Nonresident of County; Affidavit of Defense.

Any person charged with the commission of a criminal traffic offense who is not a resident of or domiciled in a county where the alleged offense took place may, at the discretion of the court, file a written statement setting forth facts justifying the filing of an affidavit of defense or file an affidavit of defense directly, if practicable, upon posting a reasonable bond set by the court.


RULE 6.290. WITHHOLDING ADJUDICATION PROHIBITED

Pursuant to section 316.656, Florida Statutes, no court shall suspend, defer,or withhold adjudication of guilt or the imposition of sentence for the offense of driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while having an unlawful blood alcohol level or while under the influence of alcoholic beverages,any chemical substance set forth in section 877.111, Florida Statutes, or any substance controlled by chapter 893, Florida Statutes.

Committee Notes

1988 Amendment. Subdivision (b) was eliminated by the committee as there is no “lesser offense” for a DUI. Moreover, the enhanced penalty under section 316.193(4), Florida Statutes, for a blood alcohol level of .20 or above has inherently changed the entire previous meaning of the eliminated subdivision. The new enhanced penalty portion of the statute creates a “lesser offense” to the “enhancement” — but not to the DUI.


RULE 6.291. PROCEDURES ON WITHHELD ADJUDICATION INDRIVING WHILE LICENSE SUSPENDED; COSTS AND ENLARGEMENT OF TIME TO COMPLY; RECORD OF CONVICTIONS

(a) Costs.

When a defendant charged with a criminal offense elects to exercise the option of receiving a withheld adjudication under section 318.14(10), Florida Statutes, law enforcement education assessments under section 943.25, Florida Statutes, and victims-of-crimes compensation costs and surcharges under sections 938.03 and 938.04, Florida Statutes, must be assessed, in addition to the court costs assessed by section 318.14(10), Florida Statutes.

b) Additional Costs.

In addition to any other allowable costs, additional court costs of up to $5 may be assessed, if authorized by administrative order of the chief judge of the circuit.(c) Time to Comply. When a defendant elects to exercise the option

(c) Time to Comply. When a defendant elects to exercise the option

When a defendant elects to exercise the option of receiving a withheld adjudication pursuant to section 318.14(10), Florida Statutes, the clerk shall allow the defendant such additional time as may be reasonably necessary, not exceeding 60 days, to fulfill statutory requirements. If the defendant has not been able to comply with the statutory requirements within 60 days, the court, for good cause shown, may extend the time necessary for the defendant to comply.

(d) Convictions.

Elections under section 318.14(10), Florida Statutes, when adjudication is withheld, shall not constitute convictions as that term is used in chapter 322, Florida Statutes.

Committee Notes

1990 Amendment. Section 27.3455(1), Florida Statutes, was amended to provide that any person who pleads nolo contendere to a misdemeanor or criminal traffic offense under section 318.14(10)(a) shall be assessed costs of $50 for the local government criminal justice trust fund. This enactment requires the deletion of the previously existing rule provision that prohibited an assessment of costs for the local government criminal justice trust fund.1992 Amendment. This rule consolidates rules 6.291, 6.292, and 6.293. It also sets a limit on the amount of time a clerk can allow a defendant to process an administrative withheld adjudication through the clerk, without leave of court.


RULE 6.300. DRIVER LICENSE REVOCATION; MAINTAINING LIST

In order to comply with the provisions of section 322.282(1), Florida Statutes, the clerk need not maintain a separate list of driver license revocations or suspensions from his or her existing records.


RULE 6.310. LESSER INCLUDED OFFENSES

No civil traffic infraction shall be considered a lesser included offense of any criminal traffic offense.


Additional Resources

Florida Rules of Traffic Court for Criminal Offenses - Visit the Florida Bar website to learn more about the rules that govern traffic court and county court throughout the state. Find the committee notes for each amendment that explain the rules and reasons for changing the rules each time.


This article was last updated on Friday, May 19, 2017.

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