Criminal Traffic Crimes

Florida law distinguishes between civil traffic infractions and criminal traffic violations. Civil traffic infractions are only punishable by a fine. Examples of civil traffic violations include a speeding ticket or a citation for running a red light.

On the other hand, criminal traffic violations can be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor, both of which are punishable by incarceration in jail or prison.

Examples of criminal traffic violations include DUI, driving on a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, fleeing to elude, or even vehicular manslaughter.

Because many of these criminal traffic cases involve an officer stopping a moving vehicle during a routine traffic stop, common legal issues include:

  • contesting the legality of the stop;
  • moving to exclude statements because the officer didn’t read the Miranda warnings;
  • moving to suppress evidence seized illegally; or
  • showing the arresting officer didn’t have probable cause to make the arrest or issue the criminal notice to appear in court.

Attorney for Criminal Traffic Crimes in Tampa, FL

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm focus on criminal traffic charges in the greater Tampa Bay area. Call an attorney at Sammis Law Firm to discuss the particular facts of your case.

We represent clients charged with a misdemeanor or felony driving and traffic offenses. While fighting the criminal accusation, we also develop a plan to protect your driving privileges.

We created this website to provide you with a wealth of general information about some very specific criminal offenses including the maximum and minimum statutory penalties, collateral consequences to your driving record, and possible defenses.

Contact us to discuss the benefits of filing and litigating motions to suppress evidence and motions to dismiss the criminal charges. By focusing on these types of criminal charges, we can stay current on recent changes in the law and innovative defenses.

Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss the case today.

Different Types of Traffic Crimes in Florida

Most of the violations of chapter 316, Florida Statutes, are classified as noncriminal traffic infractions. Florida law, however, provides for several traffic violations that are classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

Criminal traffic crimes listed in section 318.17, Florida Statutes, include:

  • Driving under the influence § 316.193 and 316.1932;
  • Second refusal to submit to testing § 316.1939;
  • Reckless Driving (§ 316.192):
  • Fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer with the Intent to Elude (Flee to Elude) (§ 316.1935):
  • Leaving the Scene of a Crash (§§ 316.027, 316.061, 316.063(2)):
  • Making false crash reports § 316.067;
  • Willfully failing or refusing to comply with any lawful order or direction § 316.072(3)) of any:
    • law enforcement officer
    • member of a fire department
    • traffic accident investigation officer
    • traffic infraction enforcement officer
  • Obstructing a weight and safety officer of the Department of Transportation § 316.545(1);
  • Filing a false affidavit to transfer liability for a red light camera ticket § 316.0083(1)(d)(5);
  • Participating in Racing on a Highway § 316.191(3);
  • Selling or installing improper sunscreening material § 316.2956;
  • Violating federal rules and regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous materials § 316.302(5)(b);
  • Obstructing a street or highway for purposes of solicitation § 316.2045(2);
  • Willful violation of load restrictions resulting in serious bodily injury or death § 316.520(3)(b);
  • Traffic homicide/traffic fatality; and
  • Permitting unauthorized minor under 18 to drive (parent/guardian) § 322.35.

Other criminal offenses related to driving that are prosecuted in Hillsborough County, FL, include:

One common type of traffic crime is driving under the influence (often called DUI or DWI in other jurisdictions). Florida law allows for many different ways that Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can be charged include:

The most serious types of felony traffic crimes under Florida law include:

  • DUI with Serious Bodily Injury – F.S. Section 316.193(3)(a)(b)(c)(2);
  • DUI Manslaughter – F.S. Section 316.193(3)(a)(b)(c)(3);
  • Vehicular Manslaughter – F.S. Section 782.71(1);
  • Vessel Homicide – F.S. Section 782.072;
  • Reckless Driving with Serious Bodily Injury – F.S. Section 31.192(1)(3)(a)(b)(c)2;
  • Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Death – F.S. 316.027:
  • BUI Serious Bodily Injury – F.S. Section 327.35(3)(a)(b)(c)2;
  • BUI Manslaughter – F.S. Section 327.35(3)(a)(b)(c)3.

Definitions for Traffic Offenses Listed in Florida’s Chapter 316

Although some provisions of chapter 316 apply to owners of vehicles, most of the provisions of chapter 316 apply to drivers and operators.

For example, Section 316.003(10), Florida Statutes, defines a “driver” as “[a]ny person who drives or who is in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or who is exercising control of a vehicle or steering a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle.”

The type of vehicle that is driven, operated, or controlled plays a role in the distinction between drivers and operators. The term “driver” and “driving” relate to “vehicles,” which include all devices for transportation, except those used exclusively on rails or tracks. See § 316.003(75), Fla. Stat.

On the other hand, Section 316.003(25), Florida Statutes, defines “operator” as “[a]ny person who is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon the highway, or who is exercising control over or steering a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle.”

The term “operator” and “operating”  apply to specific types of “motor vehicles” defined in section 316.003(21) including “a self-propelled vehicle not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, swamp buggy, or moped.”

Learn more about whether you need a driver’s license to ride a motorized bicycle and what to do if you are improperly charged with driving while license suspended with or without knowledge.

Hardship Hearings for Early Reinstatement on a Restricted Basis

What happens if your license is suspended? Can you get a hardship license to drive? For many types of suspensions or revocations, you can apply for a hardship license if you meet certain conditions.

The hearing to determine whether you are entitled to a hardship license is conducted by hearing officers with the Bureau of Administrative Reviews (BAR) at one of their regional offices. The BAR has offices in both Tampa and Clearwater, FL, that serve all of the surrounding counties. Hearing officers are responsible for scheduling, conducting, and documenting hardship hearings.

Section 322.271, Florida Statutes gives the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) the authority to modify revocation, cancellation, or suspension orders. Hearing officers are authorized to conduct hearings and authorize reinstatement or early reinstatement on a restricted basis.

Eligibility for reinstatement or early reinstatement will be determined by the applicant’s driving history, current license status, and driving needs in accordance with this manual, and all applicable laws and policies.

Upon the suspension, cancellation, or revocation of the driver’s license of any person the department is required to immediately notify the licensee and, upon request, is required to afford him or her the opportunity for a hearing, as early as practicable within not more than 30 days after receipt of such request.

Keep in mind that under Florida law, the following sanctions are not eligible for early reinstatement (often called the “hardship license”) including:

  • Administrative suspensions under Section 322.2615 for the court-ordered suspension if there have been two or more convictions for DUI;
  • Administrative suspension for a DUI refusal under 322.2615 with a prior refusal;
  • First conviction for DUI with two or more prior refusal suspensions;
  • Second conviction for DUI outside 5 years of the preceding conviction for DUI;
  • Third conviction for DUI outside 10 years of the preceding conviction for DUI;
  • Revocation for felony violation of chapter 893, or felony possession of a controlled substance;
  • Suspension for possession of tobacco by a minor;
  • Indefinite revocation for child support delinquency;
  • Indefinite revocation for failing to pay traffic fines or failure to appear for a traffic summons;
  • Suspension resulting from the “Drop Out Law”;
  • Theft of motor vehicle parts or components (unless authorized by the trial judge);
  • Financial Responsibility suspensions;
  • Permanent revocation for murder resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle; or
  • Permanent revocation for DUI manslaughter where the record shows a prior conviction for DUI.

Choosing a Lawyer for Criminal Traffic Crimes in Hillsborough County, FL

After an arrest in the Tampa Bay Area for any misdemeanor or felony driving offense, call us to learn more about the particular crime you are charged with and the defenses that might apply.

Contact us to discuss the particular facts of your case with a criminal defense attorney focused on fighting serious driving offenses from DUI to traffic homicide cases in Tampa, FL.

At Sammis Law Firm, our experienced criminal defense attorneys represent men and women charged with a misdemeanor and felony driving crimes in any of the following counties: Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Hernando County, including the cities of Tampa, Plant City, Bartow, New Port Richey, Dade City, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or Brooksville, Florida.

Call (813) 250-0500 today.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.