Florida's Point System: A Crash Course

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has developed a point system based upon certain violations and Florida law mandates that the DHSMV suspend the driver's license of individuals who have accumulated a certain number of points. It can be a confusing area and as you'll see – one that changes often.

How does Florida's points system operate?

In a recent interview, David Haenel, an attorney based on Florida's west coast whose practice focuses on Florida suspended license issues, explained how Florida's point system operates. According to Haenel:

Depending on the nature of the violation, three or four points are usually assessed. There are some exceptions, like leaving the scene of an accident, which would be six points, but for the most part, what we do on a daily basis deals with three or four points. Speeding tickets, for example, are four points if it's 16 or more miles over the speed limit and three points if it's up to 15 miles over the speed limit.

You'll get assessed three or four points if the ticket is speeding related and four points for a moving violation with an accident, such as careless driving, an improper change of lane, a failure to yield right-of-way following an accident, etc. Any moving violation with an accident is four points.

Reckless driving and red light running will also get you four points. Interestingly, red light running was just increased to four points back in 2005. The state is really trying to put a hard stance on red light running these days. Ironically, no points are assessed after a DUI. There's other ramifications you'll get on a DUI, obviously with insurance, but you don't get any points assessed from the DMV on a DUI.

Out of state points

Many unsuspecting Florida drivers may have more points on their license than they realize. Haenel explained, "Most people don't realize that if you commit a violation out of state, those points will also transfer back to your Florida license. In a lot of states, people get a ticket out of state and they pay the ticket, the next thing you know, it transfers back to the state of Florida to your driving record as if you would have received that violation or that type of violation in the state of Florida. So, for example, if you get a speeding ticket doing 80 mph in a 60 mph zone in Georgia, four points are going to transfer back to the state of Florida on your driving record."

Fight your out of state tickets!

Haenel says that fighting out of state tickets is particularly important. He explained, "It's best to try and find a lawyer to get it reduced to a non-moving violation so that nothing transfers back to the state of Florida. Florida's kind of unique when it comes to the disposing of traffic tickets. Basically, it disposes them in one of two ways. Either you're adjudicated guilty and then you end up with points on your license or the court withholds adjudication. We have this terminology called a 'withhold', but that's not a formal conviction under Florida law. So, that means you would not be assessed any points on your license."

New laws

Florida enacted two new laws in 2005. First, it raised the number of points on a red light ticket from three to four and secondly, commercial drivers can no longer elect traffic school in an attempt to keep points off their license. Haenel says that the latter is particularly a problem for many commercial drivers in Florida:

Commercial drivers, people that hold a commercial license, can not elect traffic school any longer. Florida is kind of unique that they allow traffic school if you get a citation. You can attend traffic school once every 12 months for a total of five times in your lifetime. However, if you have a commercial driver's license, you can not make that traffic school election. The only way you'd be able to keep the points off is to go to court and ask the judge to do it.

We represent a large number of commercial drivers – not only our own clients, but a lot of third party trucking companies who have a lot of commercial drivers that pay into a legal plan. It's a big problem. If these commercial drivers get points on their license, they could lose their job.

 

In commercial cases, Haenel says that he tries to make the judges understand that, but for the change in the law, this person would have been eligible to elect traffic school. He also explained how the law affects others with commercial licenses. "The change in the law doesn't really make sense because the person doesn't even have to be driving a commercial vehicle. You can be in your private vehicle, get a ticket and because you possess a commercial license, you can not elect traffic school either. So, you would have to go through the court system in order to keep the points off your license."

If your license has been suspended in Florida, contact an attorney whose practice focuses on license suspension issues. Click here, to contact a Florida criminal attorney.