Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Apples and Oranges: Comparing the Costs of Traffic Infractions in New York and Florida

Making the Mistake of Comparing an Apple with an Orange

 These scales will never truly balance from

I was recently asked by a family friend to help him clean up his Florida tickets (traffic) so he could get back his license to drive. I do this regularly for New York drivers but had not within the state of Florida. Being licensed in a state (I am licensed in Florida), and actually practicing a specific area of law are two wildly different things. Many people are under the mistaken impression that having passed a state bar exam, getting a license, and knowing how to practice there is the way it is. It is not. I have practiced other areas there, just not traffic.

Florida is Fairly Simple: One County Courthouse for Everything

Every Florida county has a grand Courthouse. Florida is old but it's legal system is fairly new and progressive. I like to look at states as either a "Common wealth (NYS) or a Statutory State." Statutory states have set numbers (fees, fines, costs), and many commonwealth jurisdictions have wide ranges. Wide ranges, give Judges wide latitude (read discretion) on punishments and punishing.

You can do everything from a speeding ticket to a murder case in this one structure. Upstate New York has thousands of little town and village courts. In my area (the Fingerlakes region of NYS) I handle a few hundred Courts within a hundred square miles. 2/3 of our judges are non-lawyer justices/judges. They go to judge school (a couple of weeks), and then receive further training courses. They preside over misdemeanor and violation cases. They can place you in jail for up to year and/or three years of probation.

So many little courts over this land mass from

I began my legal help (services) online in Florida. With the person's private information (DOB, social, license number) I could freely access all their information. All their outstanding tickets came up, and where, and how to take care of them (on hyperlinks). I was in heaven, so organized and simple. All the phone numbers are listed. They have people there 9:00 to 4:00, everyday, and they are helpful. Afterall they want to get your money. I called them all, and for the most part was pleasantly surprised!

Well, in a place like Jacksonville, FL (Duval County), with 870,000 people, and growing, it has to be well managed and highly organized. With a commiserate number of traffic tickets that requires serious management. They could not do what we do upstate, one ticket at a time. The back log, and lash would be brutal.

In New York State I need to go to the DMV, and fill out paper forms, get a printout and then look up the Court addresses and phone numbers. NYS s very old school. Some courts don't even have websites or listed numbers. I can then try to call them but they are usually part time courts, with part time clerks, with part time prosecutors, and with part time judges. Some don't even have voicemail (or allow/accept voicemail). Did I mention they are part-time? How frustrating it can be to resolve anything here at times.

Back to my Florida experience. I contacted three counties, a collection agency, and the DMV all in less than 2 hours. I got to the bottom of 6 tickets, how much, where, when, and how to pay in that time. The total cost of all of these tickets: Less than $600, and that is with fines, fees, and the collection agency adding 40%. Mind you these tickets went back over 7 years.

In Upstate New York State, similar stuff would be in the thousands of dollars, hell one court for one old ticket could easily be over $600? Our fines, surcharges, and fees are high (like New Jersey) compared to good old Florida.

Is Florida better? Yes and No, just much easier and cheaper when it comes to this area of practice/law. Many people and lawyers doing Florida traffic tickets would be surprised by the New York experience. I got a call from a Florida guy once asking me to handle a Upstate New York ticket, when I told him my fee he balked but you guys (attorneys) do a dozen tickets all at once (like Florida), not true. Not easy or simple, not 9 to 4, we have night court as well, some Courts have Saturday court only.

So before you think every state or place is the same, get the real picture. Apples and oranges are both fruit but they are very different from one another.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., Esq.

Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law