The Florida Legislature has determined sentencing parameters for handicapped parking infractions. Florida Statute section 318.18 states:
"The penalties required for a noncriminal disposition pursuant to ss. 316.2935(6) and 318.14(1), (2), and (4) are as follows: (7) One hundred dollars for illegally parking in a parking space provided for disabled persons under s. 316.1955 or s. 316.1956.''
The penalties prescribed in section 318.18 are not mandatory. Instead, the sentencing magistrate has the discretion to vary the amount of the fine imposed. Florida Statute 318.14(5) states ithat:
"Any person electing to appear before the designated official or who is required so to appear shall be deemed to have waived his right to the civil penalty provisions of s.318.18.
The official, after a hearing, shall make a determination as to whether an infraction has been committed. If the commission of an infraction has been proven, the official may impose a civil penalty not to exceed $500 or require attendance at a department-approved driver improvement school, or both.''
Under section 318.14(5), the Florida Legislature gives the hearing official the discretion to vary the amount of the fine required by justice. State of Florida v. Garner, 402 So.2d 1333 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).
Have you received a citation for a handicapped parking infraction? If yes, contact an attorney who can help you fight the case. Do not just submit to civil authorities and pay the allotted fines. The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. represent clients throughout Palm Beach County, Broward County and Miami-Dade County.
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The procedures set in section 318.14(5) apply to handicapped parking violations. In fact, Section 318.14(1) states that violations of "Chapter 316'' are deemed to be noncriminal infractions and, therefore, subject to section 318.14(5).
Under Florida Statute 318.13(3), the term "infraction" is defined as:
"non-criminal violation that may require community service hours under section 316.027(4), but is not punishable by incarceration and for which there is no right to a trial by jury or a right to court-appointed counsel.''
Florida Statute section 316.1955(5)(b), states all handicapped parking violations are found in Chapter 316 (section 316.1955 and section 316.1956) and are classified as "noncriminal traffic infractions."
Additionally, Florida Statute section 318.14(4), if a person is given a handicapped parking violation and does not elect to appear in court, the person must pay a fine in the amount of $100 (section 318.18(7)) or such other amount imposed by a local authority not to exceed $250 Section 316.008(4)).
A handicapped parking violation is a noncriminal traffic infraction (see section 316.1955 and section 316.1956), however, an individual charged with this offense may waive his right to the civil penalties of Section 318.18. Instead, the person may elect to appear before a designated hearing officer to contest the charge as provided in 318.14(5), Florida Statutes.
In these circumstances, a hearing officer has the discretion to impose a civil penalty "not to exceed $500 or require attendance at a driver improvement school, or both.'' Section 318.14(5), Florida Statutes. The Garner, 402 So.2d at 1336, the court found that Section 318.14(5) is intended to give the hearing officer discretion to vary the amount of the fine.
As the court in CITY OF WEST PALM BEACH, Appellant vs. JAMES WAYNE LOVELY, Appellee. 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Appellate Division (Criminal), explained:
In the area of handicapped parking violations, traffic magistrates are faced daily with cases involving arrogant, defiant scofflaws who park in handicapped parking spaces.
In contrast, they encounter persons who, by reason of temporary illness or injury, use those spaces while filling prescriptions. For instance, in one case a person who received a ticket for parking in a handicapped space on his own property or at his office on a weekend.
On any given day traffic magistrates mete out punishment for conduct which is flagrant, excusable or all but blameless. It is simply wrong to inflict the same punishment in each instance.
History and logic favor the view that the Legislature and our Supreme Court never intended to limit the discretion of the tribunal when, in 1974, the venerable right to trial by jury was eliminated from the offenses covered by Chapter 318.
It requires no citation of authority that the jury provides a crucial check on governmental overreaching. As stated by the Court:
``The intent and purpose of the Legislature ... was to decriminalize particular traffic offenses and to allow an offender to pay a specified penalty or complete a driver's improvement course...''.
Nettleton v. Doughtie, 373 So.2d 667 (Fla. 1979).
Oliver Wendell Holmes told us that a jury could return a verdict in the teeth of the law and the evidence. We recognize the principle of a jury pardon while at the same time exhorting juries to follow the law. Nurse v. State, 658 So.2d 947 (Fla. 5th DCA 1995); Denmark v. State, 604 So.2d 845 (Fla. 2d DCA 1992); and State v. Wimberly, 498 So.2d 929 (Fla. 1986).
Before decriminalization in 1974, a defendant charged with an offense covered by Chapter 318 could have demanded a jury trial and a jury doubtless would take into account the offense and the offender. Having taken away the right to trial by jury it is vital that the hearing officer be left with discretion to do justice in the individual case.
This article was last updated on Thursday, May 10, 2018.
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