Back to School: Protecting Your Rights in School Zone Traffic Cases

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As summer draws to a close, drivers must be aware of the upcoming changes in traffic patterns with the start of the new school year. School zones are designated areas with heightened safety measures to protect students, teachers, and pedestrians during school hours. Tragically, children are especially vulnerable to being injured in school zones due to their proximity to vehicular traffic and the unique characteristics of school environments.

Recent Legal Measures Implemented

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles crash statistics suggest that school zones pose a significant safety risk. Florida lawmakers have enacted a law to enhance our children’s safety by strictly enforcing school zone speed limits. Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation (HB 657) into law, effective July 1, 2023. This law allows Florida municipalities and counties to install speed detection cameras in school zones to increase community safety. In addition, this law includes a revised schedule of fines for violations and the start of a school crossing guard recruitment and retention program.

At The AP Law Group, we understand the seriousness of school zone offenses and their potential legal consequences. However, there are justifications for challenging school zone offenses, such as lack of proper signage, malfunctioning signage, emergencies, inaccuracies of radar or speed detection devices, acts of necessity to prevent more significant harm, or an alleged offense occurring when school was not in session. 

Consequences of Traffic Offenses

A traffic offense, seemingly minor at first glance, can have far-reaching consequences that significantly affect a person’s life. From receiving a simple speeding ticket to more serious violations like reckless driving or driving under the influence, the repercussions extend beyond the immediate fines. Accumulating points on a driving record may increase insurance premiums, making it harder to manage finances effectively. 

Moreover, repeated offenses or severe violations can result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license, severely limiting personal mobility and independence.

In some cases, a traffic offense may even result in a criminal record, affecting employment opportunities and educational pursuits. The emotional toll of dealing with a traffic offense, such as stress, anxiety, or guilt, can strain personal relationships and mental well-being. Therefore, it is essential to address traffic violations seriously and seek legal counsel when necessary to mitigate the potential long-term consequences on one’s life.

Understanding School Zone Violations

School zone violations are met with heavy penalties. There can be violations, misdemeanors and felony charges related to driving offenses in school zones, depending on the nature and severity of the offense committed. School zone offenses typically fall under traffic or criminal laws, and the classification of the charges depends on the specific charge and its potential consequences.

Violation and misdemeanor offenses in school zones typically carry penalties such as fines, points on the driving record, driver’s license suspension, probation, and community service. The severity of these penalties can vary based on the specific violation and any prior convictions on the individual’s record. Felony offenses in school zones carry more severe penalties, including substantial fines, extended prison sentences, and long-term license suspension or revocation.

Examples of Violations and Misdemeanors in School Zones are:

  • Speeding: Driving above the posted speed limit in a school zone during restricted hours
  • Failure to Stop for a School Bus: Passing a stopped school bus while children are entering or exiting
  • Distracted Driving: Engaging in distracted driving, such as using a mobile phone, in a school zone
  • Illegal U-turns: Making an illegal U-turn within a school zone

Examples of Felony School Zone Offenses are: 

  • Aggravated Assault or Reckless Driving: Engaging in aggressive or reckless driving in a school zone, injuring others
  • Hit and Run with Injury: Leaving the scene of an accident in a school zone where someone has been injured
  • Drug-Related Offenses: For drug distribution or trafficking within a certain distance of a school, enhanced penalties under drug-free school zone laws can lead to felony charges

Experience Counts: Decades of Success in Complex Cases

Consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential if you face school zone offense charges. Remember that each case is unique, and the specific defenses available will depend on your violation’s circumstances. At The AP Law Group, our criminal defense attorneys can evaluate your situation, provide guidance, and work diligently to protect your rights and interests in court.

The AP Law Group: Building Trust, Delivering Results

Our seasoned trial lawyers have in-depth knowledge of Florida traffic laws. Our legal team conducts thorough investigations, including gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing police reports to help identify weaknesses in a prosecution’s case and build a strong defense strategy. We are adept at negotiating with prosecutors to reach favorable outcomes for our clients.

 If a case results in a trial and conviction, we work toward minimizing penalties, such as reducing fines, avoiding license suspension, or exploring alternatives to traditional sentencing. We protect you throughout the legal process by safeguarding your rights to ensure a fair trial and due process.

Contact The AP Law Group at (352) 732-9191 to schedule a confidential appointment at our Gainesville or Ocala, Florida, offices today. We offer personalized and tailored solutions for your legal needs.