Appeal from Traffic Court

Under Rule 9.030(c)(1)(A), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, any decision of the traffic division of a county court can be reviewed on appeal by the circuit court. If the decision is affirmed, the case can then be reviewed by common law certiorari to the district court of appeal.

The writ of certiorari level review is limited to cases in which the circuit court has departed from the essential requirements of law constituting a violation of a clearly established principle of law resulting in a miscarriage of justice. Combs v. State, 436 So. 2d 93 (Fla. 1983).

An appeal of a decision made by a hearing officer in traffic court goes to the circuit court as required by section 318.33, Florida Statutes. Appeals from the decision of the hearing officer in traffic court are based on the record created in traffic court and are not be hearings de novo.

In order to have a record for the appeal, Section 318.33 requires the driver to produce a record of the hearing beyond that which normally results from the civil traffic infraction hearing process. That record can be either an audio recording of the proceeding or a written statement that reconstructs what a transcript would have shown.

Attorney for Appeals from Traffic Court in Florida

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm can help you decide whether you should appeal a ruling in traffic court after a decision by a county court judge or a hearing officer. We can also help you decide the best way to request a rehearing or correct an illegal sentence.

Our offices are located in downtown Tampa, FL, in Hillsborough County. Our appellate attorneys in Tampa, FL, represent clients throughout the greater Tampa Bay area. Our main office is conveniently located in downtown Tampa. We have a second office located in New Port Richey across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Contact us to discuss your case.

Call 813-250-0500.

Preserving the Status Quo During an Appellate Proceeding

Keep in mind that an appeal does not stay the reporting of the disposition of a civil traffic infraction matter to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). See § 318.16(1), Fla. Stat.

The driver can apply under rule 9.310(f), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, to preserve the status quo during an appellate proceeding through a stay. See Hirsch v. Hirsch, 309 So. 2d 47 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975). If allowed by the appellate court, the stay will remain in effect until the appellate court issues a mandate as provided by Fla. R. App. P. 9.310(e).

As explained by the court in State ex rel. Price v. McCord, 380 So. 2d 1037 (Fla. 1980), when deciding whether to grant a stay, the court should consider the following:

  • the likelihood of harm if a stay is denied; and
  • the defendant’s likelihood of success on the merits.

Courts have also considered indigency as a factor for consideration when deciding whether to grant a stay pending the appeal from a decision in traffic court. For example, in Coulombe v. State, 837 So. 2d 506 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003), the court found that indigency related to payment for index of record on appeal and carried that issue over to the analysis of staying underlying ruling.

Recording the Hearing in Traffic Court

Rule 6.460(b), Florida Rules of Traffic Court, provides that any party may make a recording of a civil infraction hearing to provide a record to be used for appellate purposes.

The recording must be in a format acceptable to the clerk and “delivered immediately after the hearing to the clerk, who shall secure and file it.” The clerk must provide a certified copy and transcription of the recording for an appeal if ordered by a party, at that party’s expense.

Creating the Record from a Traffic Court Hearing

If neither side used the provisions of rule 6.460 or otherwise provided for an appropriate record for the appeal, a record may be created pursuant to rule 9.200(b)(4), Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Under this provision, the person that brings the appeal “may prepare a statement of the evidence or proceedings from the best means available” such as their personal recollection.

The statement is then served upon the appellee, who may then serve objections or proposed amendments to the statement within ten (10) days of service. After those ten (10) days, the statement and any objections or proposed amendments to the statement are submitted to the hearing officer for settlement and approval.

The clerk of court must include the final approved statement as part of the record certified to the appellate court.

Motions for New Hearing in Traffic Court

Under rule 6.540 of the Florida Rules of Traffic Court, the “motion for new hearing or in arrest of judgment, or both, may be made within 10 days, or such greater time as the official may allow, not to exceed 30 days, after the finding of the official.” See also State v. Carr, 373 So. 2d 657 (Fla. 1979).

After being found guilty of committing a traffic infraction, the defendant is permitted to immediately make a motion for new hearing. The hearing officer may immediately rule upon the motion.

If a motion for a new hearing or an arrest of judgment is filed in writing, it must be filed with the clerk and explains the grounds upon which the motion for new hearing is being made.

The clerk will either set the motion for new hearing in traffic court for a hearing or forward the motion to the hearing officer for review.

Post-Adjudication Proceedings in Traffic Court

As provided by rule 6.490(a), Florida Rules of Traffic Court, the hearing officer is permitted to correct an illegal sentence or penalty at any time. But when the sentence is legal, the 60 day time limits contained in rule 6.490(b) apply.

Under rule 6.490(b) the hearing officer can only reduce or change a legal penalty imposed by that hearing officer under the following time limits:

  • within 60 days after the imposition of the sentence;
  • within 60 days after receipt by the official of a mandate issued by the appellate court that affirms the judgment and/or penalty through an original appeal;
  • within 60 days after receipt by the official of a certified copy of an order of the appellate court dismissing an original appeal from the judgment or penalty; or
  • within 60 days after the highest court has entered its order of affirmance or an order dismissing the appeal and/or denying certiorari when the further appellate review was sought in a higher court.

Keep in mind that the DHSMV may refuse to accept the disposition and provide the hearing officer with notice of the apparent violation of the 60 day time limit in rule 6.490, if the hearing officer purports to reduce or change a penalty after 60 days following its imposition.

This article was last updated on November 2, 2020.