Board Certified* 

 Criminal Trial

Lawyer

Thomas E. Cushman, P.A., Attorney at Law

Do You Really Need A Lawyer For A Criminal Charge?
In most cases, YES YOU DO!

A criminal arrest and possible conviction may have far-reaching consequences. Often a criminal record may prevent your admission into college or trade school, may prohibit or discourage your potential employment in many fields, and may result in other serious, but unforeseen, consequences. In any criminal charge, the government is going after an individual. A lawyer can help even up the odds. This includes the assistance of a Public Defender, if you can’t afford a private lawyer.

THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE AT THE TIME OF ARREST. YOU SHOULD NOT TALK TO THE POLICE BEFORE TALKING TO A LAWYER.
(Would you begin surgery before talking to a surgeon?)

An attorney who regularly practices in the field of criminal defense can assess the strength of the government’s case against an individual and explore methods to defend or mitigate the outcome of the case.

An assessment of the case against an individual should begin with an examination of the evidence, which may potentially be used. In most cases, the individual charged does not have access to the government’s evidence and does not possess the professional experience to fairly evaluate the evidence. This is a job for an experienced attorney. It is very likely that you do need an attorney experienced in the practice of criminal law.

To make an appointment for your assessment call Tom Cushman at (904) 826-0220, send an email by clicking here, or use the Contact Form
.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

GENERAL INFORMATION:
1. Why won't you represent informants?
2. What is an appeal?

CRIMINAL CHARGES:
3. When are you under arrest?
4. If someone is arrested for a criminal offense, what does he or she have a right to expect from the arresting officer(s)?
5. What basic things should a person remember if arrested?
6. How soon after an arrest must a person appear before a judge?
7. What if a person cannot afford to hire an attorney?
8. What does it mean to be released on bail?
9. Is it true, a seemingly minor action would be a felony in Florida?
10. Can a person younger than 18 be treated as an adult with criminal sanctions such as a prison sentence?
11. Can my juvenile record be used against me after I become an adult?
12. Can I have my record sealed or expunged?
13. What are the penalties for a fake ID?

THE FLORIDA COURT SYSTEM: 
14. What are Florida's various courts?
15. What types of cases are considered by the county courts?
16. What types of cases are heard by the circuit court?
17. What types of cases are heard by the district courts of appeal?
18. What types of cases are heard by the Florida Supreme Court?

FLORIDA DRINKING LAWS: 
19. What is the legal drinking age in Florida?
20. Why can't I drink at age 18?
21. What happens if I drive after I have been drinking?
22. What is the Open Container Law?

FLORIDA DRIVING LAWS: 
23. Is driving a right or a privilege?
24. Do I lose my driver license if I drop out of school before I reach 18 or before I earn my diploma?
25. Do I have to have car insurance?
26. What if I drive off without paying for gasoline?
27. What if I receive a ticket out of state?
28. What does PIP insurance cover?
29. Who is covered under PIP insurance?
30. What happens if I have an accident outside of Florida?
31. Who is covered under property damage liability insurance?
32. Is it unlawful to play my car radio at a loud volume?
33. Can my parents look at my driving records?
34. Is it unlawful to use a laser?


 1. WHY WON'T YOU REPRESENT INFORMANTS?:

At Thomas Cushman, P.A., we do not represent informants.  In fact, Mr. Cushman has worked hard to build up a reputation in the community that he does not work with "snitches".  There are moral, philosophical and practical reasons for this policy.

From a moral standpoint, it is hard to justify "snitching".  Even a child understands this from a young age.  And worse, when the State tries to coerce someone into "snitching", it's often a friend, family member, or business associate that you are being asked to betray.  Keep your dignity.  Keep your honor.  Don't "snitch".

From a philosophical standpoint, informants destroy lives, and they often do so by lying.  Of course, the State incentivizes this behavior by offering reduced sentences or charges, monetary payment, or release from incarceration, in return for "selling your soul".  According to the Innocence Project, in more than 15% of wrongful conviction cases overturned through DNA testing, an informant testified against the defendant at the original trial. Very often, these statements from people with incentives to testify, particularly incentives that are not disclosed to the jury, are the central evidence in convicting an innocent person.  (Read more about it here: “The Snitch System: How Incentivized Witnesses Put 38 Innocent Americans on Death Row.”)

From a practical standpoint well, we like to think it's our job to keep people OUT of jail, not help the State put people IN jail.

These days, we’re on the defense side, and we simply don’t represent informants. If a defendant wants to flip, that’s their business, but they can find someone else to represent them. We like to think our job is to keep people out of jail, not to help the prosecution put someone else in jail.
 2. WHAT IS AN APPEAL? A Short Explanation:

An Appeal is probably NOT what you think it is. In most cases, a criminal Appeal deals with mistakes made by the Judge both before and during a trial.  But, this means that the Judge had to have had the opportunity to consider, and evaluate an issue, or an objection to evidence, or a procedure that was followed.  If there was no trial, in most cases a plea of guilty or “no contest” has waived or given up an individual’s right to appeal.  In almost all cases, at sentencing, the Judge will tell an individual that there is a right to an appeal.  This, however is somewhat misleading if a guilty plea was entered, because a “guilty” plea does, in fact, waive, or give up a person’s right to appeal.  A “no contest” plea, (also known as a plea of nolo contender) does the same, unless your lawyer “reserved the right to appeal” a specific issue, such as a “Motion to Suppress Evidence” or a “Motion to Dismiss” the charges against the person. Even in such a case, the issue must be “dispositive”.  That is, if the Defense were to have won a Motion to Suppress Evidence or a Motion to Dismiss, there is nothing else for the Court to consider.  For instance, in a drug case involving an improper search and seizure, the ruling must include all of the drugs, so that if a trial were held, the government would be prohibited from introducing any drugs at all.

Also, even if the Defense were lucky enough to win, it may not be a total win.  In a criminal appeal, a win may not result in a complete reversal of a conviction, and may in fact subject the accused person to another trial.  Remember also that, if the Defense won a “dispositive” motion in the trial court, the State may appeal.  And that decision in the trial court must then be defended in the Appellate Court.

You should be aware that in any criminal case, the government usually wins in one manner or another about 95% of the time.  An  appeal is usually the result of a government win at trial, or through a plea of guilty or “no contest” (nolo contendere). 

By whatever method, there is, by my estimate, a reversal of a conviction in less than 5% of cases.

You should also be aware that most appeals take about a year to resolve.  This is because there must be a Record on Appeal, which includes all, or most of the pleadings filed in the trial court.  In addition, there is usually a Transcript of the trial, and the various hearings, as well as the Motions filed before and after the trial. The expense of preparing the Record on Appeal, and the transcripts must usually be paid for by the party that has appealed the case.  Depending on the length of the trial and the hearings on motions, this expense can run into thousands of dollars.  (I always try to ask the court reporter for an estimate of those costs, before ordering the transcript.)

It often takes several months to produce and assemble all of these items, before the lawyer handling the appeal can even begin writing what is known as a “brief”.  An initial “brief” can be as much as 50 pages, and should include a Statement of the Facts.  These facts must deal only with testimony actually given in Court. Whatever may have been said in pretrial depositions usually makes no difference, unless a witness was questioned about it in the trial. It is also critical to establish that there were objections to evidence made, where pertinent, at the time of the objectionable evidence or testimony.

Issues raised in Pretrial Motions are often critical, because if the issue was not raised in the trial court, and a ruling made by the trial court, the Appellate Court could   determine that the issue had been waived, or given up. Thus, failure to file a pretrial motion, or failure to object to the evidence at the proper time during the trial can result in a loss of the Appeal.  Experienced trial lawyers know this, and an essential part of preparation for a trial is preparing issues to be raised in the trial, so that, if unsuccessful at trial, the same issue may be raised in the Appeal.

After the “initial brief” is filed by the party appealing the decision, the “Appellant”, the other side (the "Appellee"), gets a period of time to file an “answer brief” that should respond to the issues raised in the “initial brief”. It is quite common for one side or the other (or both) to ask for an extension of time in which to file the briefs.

After the Answer brief is filed, the Appellant gets to file a “reply brief” to answer the issues argued by the Answer brief. 

In many cases, one side or the other may ask the Appellate Court to grant an opportunity to argue the issues in person before the Appeals Court.  This argument  is often held two or three months after the briefs have been filed.  However, even if granted, oral argument is usually restricted to 15 minutes per side.  Often at oral argument, members of the panel of Judges get to ask questions of the lawyers about the issues they are arguing.

After Oral argument, the Appellate Court may write an opinion. But, in a majority of cases, the Appellate Court will simply affirm the decision already reached in the trial court.  In fact, this is the result in 90-95% of criminal cases.

So, as you can see, the likelihood of winning a criminal appeal is quite slim.  Appeals are very time consuming, and must be prepared very carefully.  Because they are very time consuming, they tend to be quite expensive, especially when the costs are included.   

There are other appellate matters that should be discussed with the client, but this is intended to give you a basic idea how criminal appeals proceed.

To make an appointment for Tom to examine your basis for an appeal, call Tom Cushman at (904) 826-0220, send an email by clicking here, or use the Contact Form.



CRIMINAL CHARGES: (Source: The Florida Bar's "Legal Guide for New Adults", Revised 6/24/2014)

 3. When Are You Under Arrest? 
You are arrested when law enforcement officers take you into custody or otherwise deprive you of your freedom of movement in any significant way, in order to hold you to answer for a criminal offense. Police officers, under Florida law, are obligated to identify themselves and to advise you that you are under arrest and why, unless circumstances make it impossible for them to do so at that time. You may, in fact, be under arrest even though no one has actually used the word “arrest” or any other comparable word. The fact that you have been deprived of your freedom of movement in some significant manner may amount legally to an arrest. Ordinarily, private citizens do not have power of arrest in Florida; but under limited circumstances a private party may make an arrest where an actual commission of a felony is involved (§ 901.16 and § 901.17, Fla. Stat.).

 4. If Someone Is Arrested For A Criminal Offense, What Does He Or She Have A Right To Expect From The Arresting Officer(s)?
If arrested, you can expect to be searched for weapons by the police and taken to jail (§ 901.21 and § 901.211, Fla. Stat.). If questioned, you will be advised of your rights under the United States Constitution, in what is commonly called Miranda warnings. As soon as you request an attorney, all questioning must stop. If you do not wish to answer questions you must state that you are invoking your right to remain silent. Once this right is invoked, all questioning must stop. Some important rights to remember are the right to remain silent; no one can be forced to incriminate himself/herself. Another important right is the right to the presence of an attorney WHILE being questioned (§ 901.24, Fla. Stat.).
      You have a right to know the crime or crimes with which you have been charged. 
      • You have a right to know the identity of the police officers who are dealing with you. 
      • You have the right to communicate by telephone with your attorney, family, friends, or bondsperson as soon after you are brought into the police station as practicable. The police have a right to complete their booking procedures before you are allowed to use the telephone.

     5. What Basic Things Should A Person Remember If Arrested? 
    You should remember your right to have an attorney present. Once you have identified yourself, you may refuse to make any statement or discuss the case with anyone. On the other hand, you may choose to answer questions or sign papers. However, any information you give can be used as evidence against you in court. Law enforcement officers cannot force or threaten you into answering questions and cannot offer leniency in exchange for any written or oral statements. If you want to remain silent and end an interrogation you have to break your silence and state just that, that you want to end the interrogation. Otherwise the police can just keep shooting questions at a person who refuses to talk as long as the police want, in hopes that the person will crack and give them some information. Yes, this might be confusing, just recall that if you want to remain silent you have to speak up to end the interrogation. 

     6. How Soon After An Arrest Must A Person Appear Before A Judge? 
    If you are arrested and placed in jail, an “initial appearance” before a judge must occur within 24 hours of your arrest. At an initial appearance, you will be apprised of the charges against you and asked if you understand the charges. In most cases bail will be set and you will be asked if you can afford an attorney. Depending on the charge, you might be permitted to enter a guilty or no contest plea at first appearance. (Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.130.)

     7. What If A Person Cannot Afford To Hire An Attorney? 
    If you cannot afford an attorney, the judge will appoint an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office to represent you. An attorney from the Public Defender’s Office will be in court and you will be given an opportunity to briefly speak with him/her (Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.111.)

     8. What Does It Mean To Be Released On Bail? 
    Bail is designed to guarantee your appearance in court. Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment, and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great, every person charged with a crime or violation of municipal or county ordinances shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure your presence at trial or assure the integrity of the judicial process, you may be detained. The court will require that a specific amount of money be deposited with the clerk of the court or sheriff (Chapter 903, Fla. Stat.). Sometimes the court allows deposit of a bond or title to a vehicle or home. Usually a member of the family must get the money, give the money to the clerk or sheriff and then show the receipt in order to get you released. Private bail bondspersons can be called from the jail (Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.131.) 

     9. Is It True, A Seemingly Minor Action Would Be A Felony In Florida? 
    Yes. For example, if you falsely apply for an I.D. or unlawfully spray a fire extinguisher, or falsely report child abuse. 

     10. Can A Person Younger Than 18 Be Treated As An Adult With Criminal Sanctions Such As A Prison Sentence? 
    Yes. It depends on the seriousness of the offense and the age of the person charged (§ 985.556, § 985.557, and § 985.565, Fla. Stat.).

     11. Can My Juvenile Record Be Used Against Me After I Become An Adult? 
    Yes. All prior criminal acts may be considered for sentencing purposes (Chapter 921, Fla. Stat.).

     12. Can I Have My Record Sealed Or Expunged? 
    Maybe, depending on your charge, as well as your prior criminal record. Further, certain conditions and exceptions apply. For example, sealing your record only restricts access by the general public. Federal, state, county and city agencies may still access your criminal history record. Expunction of your record totally removes your criminal record, however agencies will be able to know that the criminal record has been removed, and can obtain the record through a court order. There are other exceptions where you may not deny or fail to acknowledge a sealed or expunged criminal incident. In addition, sealing or expunging your record in Florida may have no impact on private company or federal databases. Your record may still be available through private companies that purchase such information from the state and counties. Employers and the general public may still have access to these records through the private companies. While an individual may lawfully deny or fail to acknowledge the sealed or expunged criminal information, there are numerous exceptions to the rule. For more information on sealing or expunging your criminal record, please visit http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/content/getdoc/c83dd888-ef7a-448e-9a96-ba69fc4181f7/Seal-and-Expunge-Home.aspx External Link.

     13. What are the penalties for a fake ID? 
    It depends on the ID itself. If you present another’s true ID with their permission as your own, you risk a second degree misdemeanor. Penalties include up to: an arrest, a maximum jail sentence of up to 60 days and/or 6 months probation, and a $500.00 fine (§ 322.32, Fla. Stat.). If you possess a forged (altered) or counterfeit (falsely produced) ID, or possess a stolen ID, you risk a third degree felony. Penalties include up to: an arrest, a maximum of 5 years prison and/or probation, and a $5000.00 fine (§ 322.212, Fla. Stat.)

    THE FLORIDA COURT SYSTEM: (Source: The Florida Bar's "Legal Guide for New Adults", Revised 6/24/2014)


     14. What Are Florida’s Various Courts? 
    Courts in Florida are divided into county courts, circuit courts, district courts of appeal, and the Florida Supreme Court. Trials are held in county courts and circuit courts. If a party believes a county court or circuit court decided a case in error, he/she may ask that the case be reviewed by a higher court. This is called an appeal. County court cases are appealed to the circuit court, circuit court cases are appealed to the district courts of appeal. For complaints affecting a person’s license, registration or certification to practice a profession or trade, or for certain other decisions made by state regulatory agencies, there is an administrative hearing process through the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) which must be completed before the agency decision is challenged in the courts (Chapter 120, Fla. Stat.). DOAH also houses the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims for those individuals who have a worker’s compensation claim (Chapter 440, Fla. Stat.). In addition to state courts, a lawsuit may be brought in the federal court system in cases involving or arising under federal law or for large claims involving citizens of different states. Federal district courts are the trial courts in the federal system, and federal circuit courts, the courts of appeal. For more information, refer to Title V, Florida Statutes.

     15. What Types Of Cases Are Considered By The County Courts? 
    Some less serious criminal offenses (misdemeanors, punishable by fines and/or county jail up to one year), traffic offenses and civil cases where the amount claimed is under $15,000 are handled in the county court. Disputes under $5,000 are handled in small claims division of the county court (§ 34.01, Fla. Stat.).

    QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE COUNTY COURT 
    A county court judge must be an attorney for five years (except if the population is less than 40,000 in that county) in good standing with The Florida Bar, an elector (resident) of the county where he/she is to serve, and is usually elected by the public to serve a six year term. A county court judge may be re-elected. Should a vacancy occur during a term, the Governor may appoint a replacement from a list of nominated qualified attorneys.

     16. What Types Of Cases Are Heard By The Circuit Court? 
    All serious criminal offenses (felonies, punishable by fines and/or prison of at least 1 year and 1 day), matters involving the property of a person who has died (probate), guardianships, juvenile matters for those under age 18, civil cases where the amount claimed is more than $15,000, divorces and most actions involving real estate are heard by the circuit court (§ 26.012, Fla. Stat.).

    Appeals from most county court decisions and from final orders of local government code enforcement boards are heard by the Circuit Courts.

    QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE CIRCUIT COURT 
    A circuit court judge must be an attorney for five years, in good standing with The Florida Bar, an elector (resident) of the county where he/she is to serve, and is usually elected by the public to serve a six year term. A circuit court judge may be re-elected. Should a vacancy occur during the term, the governor may appoint a replacement from a list of nominated qualified attorneys.

     17. What Types Of Cases Are Heard By The District Courts Of Appeal?
    Each court can hear appeals from final judgments of lower courts, it can review certain non-final orders, and by general law it has the power to review final actions taken by state agencies. Additionally each district court has the authority to issue extraordinary writs as necessary to perform its duties. 

    QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE DCA 
    There are five district courts of appeal throughout the state. District court judges are appointed by the governor from a list of nominated qualified attorneys; each must be an attorney for five years in good standing with The Florida Bar and an elector of the district where he/she is to serve. District judges are subject to retention election every six years. This means that regardless of when the judge is appointed, each judge’s name appears on the next general election ballot, and the public may vote to retain or remove that judge from office. 

     18. What Types Of Cases Are Heard By The Florida Supreme Court? 
    The Florida Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is limited by the Florida Constitution. This means it can only decide certain kinds of cases. The court must review final orders imposing death sentences, decide cases involving the discipline of attorneys, review district court decisions declaring a Florida statute or provision of the Florida Constitution unconstitutional, bond validations, certain other state agency orders, and may review cases involving disagreements of district courts of appeal on the same issue of law. The court has discretionary review of most matters, and few cases referred to the court will be heard. The court may render advisory opinions to the governor when asked. All Florida attorneys are subject to the authority of the court should someone file a complaint with The Florida Bar regarding an attorney’s conduct. 

    QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE FLORIDA SUPREME COURT 
    There are seven Supreme Court justices and each is appointed by the governor from a list of nominated qualified attorneys. Each justice must be an attorney for ten years in good standing with the Florida Bar, and two justices may be selected from a state wide pool of qualified applicants. A justice may serve until the mandatory retirement age of 70. The governor must appoint a justice from each of the five geographical areas that contain the district courts of appeal. Supreme Court justices are subject to retention election. Regardless of when the justice is appointed, each justice’s name appears on the next general election ballot, and the public may vote to retain or remove that justice from office. 

    FLORIDA DRINKING LAWS: (Source: The Florida Bar's "Legal Guide for New Adults", Revised 6/24/2014)

     19. What Is The Legal Drinking Age In Florida? 
    The current legal drinking age in Florida is 21 (§ 562.11, Fla. Stat.). 

     20. Why Can’t I Drink At Age 18? 
    Drinking is a privilege regulated by state laws. The legislature has the power to determine who and under what conditions a person may drink alcoholic beverages. 

     21. What Happens If I Drive After I Have Been Drinking? 
    Driving while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance is one of the most serious traffic violations you can commit. In fact, it is classified as a crime and in some circumstances a felony. If you are found guilty of driving while under the influence (DUI), you are subject to heavy penalties for the first offense. These include possible imprisonment of up to six months, a loss of your driver license for up to one year, a fine up to $2,000 in addition to court costs, completion of a substance abuse course and driving course and 50 hours of community service (16 hours with the sheriff’s work detail), along with an electronic alcohol monitor worn at all times (§ 316.193, Fla. Stat.). The vehicle you were driving must be impounded. The penalties are even more serious if your blood alcohol level is .20 or higher or if there are passengers in the vehicle under the age of 18 years old (§ 316.1934, Fla. Stat.).

    If you are intoxicated and in a vehicle with the keys, the vehicle does NOT have to be running for you to be charged with D.U.I. Actual Physical Control can be established where a person is in a vehicle with the means to drive, regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion or even running.

    If you operate a motor vehicle in the State of Florida, you are subject to the “implied consent” law. This means because you are operating a motor vehicle in the State of Florida, you have agreed to take a chemical test if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or controlled substance. A urine test can be requested if drugs are suspected. A blood test can be requested under some circumstances (traffic accident). If you have a Florida driver’s license, the statement, “I hereby consent to any chemical test for sobriety as required by law” appears directly above your signature. 

    These tests are to determine your blood alcohol or drug level to find out how much alcohol or drugs are in your bloodstream. If you refuse to take the test, you are subject to a suspension of your driver license for a period of one year for a first refusal and a period of 18 months if your driving privilege has been previously suspended for refusing to submit to such a test (§ 316.1939, Fla. Stat.). You do not have the right to have your own doctor give you the test at the time of the arrest, and you do not have the right to have an attorney present when you take such a test. You do have the right to have a second test administered by a physician or a laboratory technician of your choice. However, the second test must be paid for by you. 

    Police officers now have the power to suspend your driver license on the spot for a DUI arrest. When police officers seize a license, they will issue a traffic citation, a suspension order and issue a temporary license that is good for seven days. To earn reinstatement, drivers cited under this law must pay costs and fines. Hardship licenses are available under certain limited circumstances upon request, but not for at least 30 days after being charged. 

    If you refuse to take the test, your license will be suspended by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Upon receipt of the law enforcement officer’s sworn statement that you refused, the department will notify you in writing by certified mail to your last known address that your license has been suspended unless a notice of suspension has already been served by a police officer. Therefore, it is very important that your correct address appears on your driver license. If it does not, you should immediately correct it with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Failing to timely change your address on your driver license can be the basis for another charge. You then have the right to a hearing before a hearing officer concerning the refusal, but only if you or your attorney files for the hearing within a strict deadline (10 days). At this hearing, the hearing officer is concerned with four major issues:
        • Was there reasonable suspicion to stop you for driving while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance? Unusual or hazardous driving might be the reason for stopping you. The arresting officer must have cause to believe you were driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, while under the influence in order to detain you. 
        • Were you placed under lawful arrest? 
        • Did you refuse to submit to the test after being requested to do so by a law enforcement officer? 
        • Did the law enforcement officer tell you that your right to drive would be suspended for one year if you refuse to submit to the test?

      Your license can be suspended even though you are later found not guilty of the driving while under the influence charge. The suspension is civil in nature, based on an administrative hearing, and is entirely separate from the criminal charge of D.U.I. Therefore, you may want to consult an attorney for advice about such a hearing. 

      See Chapter 316, Fla. Stat. 

       22. What Is The Open Container Law? 
      It is unlawful for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage while operating a vehicle or while a passenger in or on a vehicle being operated. Any operator of a vehicle who violates this law is guilty of a noncriminal moving traffic violation and will be fined. A passenger of a vehicle who violates this law is also guilty of a noncriminal nonmoving traffic violation and will also be fined (§ 316.1936, Fla. Stat.).

      FLORIDA DRIVING LAWS: (Source: The Florida Bar's "Legal Guide for New Adults", Revised 6/24/2014)

       23. Is Driving A Right Or A Privilege? 
      Driving is a privilege regulated by the State of Florida. It carries great responsibility. For more information, refer to Chapter 322, Fla. Stat. 

       24. Do I Lose My Driver License If I Drop Out Of School Before I Reach 18 Or Before I Earn My Diploma? 
      Yes. Florida law requires that students under age 18 be enrolled in an educational program and satisfactorily meet relevant attendance requirements in order to apply for or retain a driver license. Students under 18 who have unsatisfactory attendance records or drop out of school will have their license suspended. A student under the age of 18 whose license has been suspended may have the license reinstated one time by improving attendance or returning to school (§ 232.19; § 322.09; and § 322.091, Fla. Stat.). This law does not apply to anyone above the age of 18. For more information, contact the Department of Education (the telephone number is listed on the last page of this pamphlet) or the website https://www.fldoe.org/Family/dropoutp/strategies.asp#drpr External Link

       25. Do I Have To Have Car Insurance? 
      According to Florida law, if you own a motor vehicle with four or more wheels you must carry at least $10,000 of personal injury protection insurance (PIP) also known as no-fault insurance. A minimum of $10,000 of property damage liability insurance is also mandatory (§ 324.021, Fla. Stat.). Failure to provide insurance may result in a suspension of your driving privilege, including your vehicle tag and registration. 

       26. What If I Drive Off Without Paying For Gasoline? 
      In addition to possible theft charges, you are also subject to losing your driver license (§ 812.014, Fla. Stat.). 

       27. What If I Receive A Ticket Out Of State? 
      If you are guilty of an out of state driving infraction, points will be assessed against your Florida driver license (§ 322.27, Fla. Stat.). 

       28. What Does PIP Insurance Cover? 
      Personal injury protection insurance (PIP) covers you regardless of whether you cause an accident (are “at-fault”) or not, up to the limits of the policy. PIP is designed to reduce the necessity of suing for reimbursement of injuries in auto accidents. PIP pays for 80% of reasonable and necessary medical expenses, 60% of lost wages and $5,000 for death benefits (§ 324.021, Fla. Stat.). 

       29. Who Is Covered Under PIP Insurance? 
      For accidents that happen in Florida, PIP covers you and relatives who live in your home, certain passengers, and others who drive your car with your permission. Pedestrians and bicyclists are also covered if they are Florida residents. 

       30. What Happens If I Have An Accident Outside Of Florida? 
      You are responsible for reporting the accident to your insurance carrier wherever an accident occurs and may be subject to criminal and/or civil liability in the location of the accident. If you are found guilty or in default of the suit outside of Florida, you may still be held liable in Florida and be subject to the consequences of the judgment depending on the type of the matter. For accidents that happen outside of Florida, but inside the United States or Canada, PIP insurance covers you and relatives who live in your home. In these cases, you must be driving your own vehicle. Persons other than you or your relatives are not covered. 


       31. Who Is Covered Under Property Damage Liability Insurance? 
      All drivers are required to purchase $10,000 of property damage liability insurance as well as PIP insurance. A $30,000 combined limit of property damage and bodily injury liability is a legal option. This coverage pays for damage you or members of your family cause to other people’s property while driving. The term “property” may include a fence, telephone pole or building, as well as another car. Coverage applies even if you drive someone else’s car. Depending on the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, it may also include anyone else who uses your car with your permission (§ 324.021(9)(b)(1), Fla. Stat.).

       32. Is It Unlawful To Play My Car Radio At A Loud Volume? 
      It is unlawful for any person operating or occupying a motor vehicle on a street or highway to operate or amplify the sound produced by a radio, tape player, or other mechanical sound making device or instrument from within the motor vehicle so it is audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle or is louder than necessary for the convenient hearing of persons inside the vehicle, in areas adjoining churches, schools, or hospitals (§ 316.3045, Fla. Stat.). 

       33. Can My Parents Look At My Driving Records? 
      Yes. The Department of Highway Safety is required to make the driving records of teens available for viewing by the parent or guardians of the minor via the internet, free of charge. The availability of free records to parents ceases after the minor becomes 18 years old (§ 322.201(13), Fla. Stat.).


       34. Is it unlawful to use a laser? 
      Yes. It is unlawful for a person to willfully shine, point or focus a laser lighting device on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel or aircraft (§ 784.062, Fla. Stat.).

      For more information regarding driving, please visit the website at www.flhsmv.gov/index.html External Link.

       





      Thomas E. Cushman, P.A.
      222 San Marco Ave., Suite C, St. Augustine, Florida, 32084
      Phone (904) 826-0220 - Toll Free (800) 526-0220 - Fax (904) 826-0445
      Office Hours: 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday


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