Speeding Tickets Increase In Cost
By KYLE MARTIN
Published: July 6, 2008
Gas prices aren't the only reason for motorists to wince.
Starting Tuesday, fines for speeding tickets and other traffic violations shoot up on average $15 to $20. The rate hikes are among the new laws and revisions enacted by the Florida Legislature this year.
In spite of regional gas prices on the borderline of $4 per gallon, sheriff's Sgt. Matt Lillibridge has seen no reduction of speeders.
He's optimistic, though, that higher fines might serve as further discouragement.
"With the way the economy is, maybe people will finally" see the light, Lillibridge said.
Among the increases, running a red light now carries a $204 fine and adds four points to a driver's license instead of three. A ticket for speeding between one and nine miles per hour over the speed limit costs $104. Fines are higher for violations in school and construction zones, but can be reduced through driving school.
Also noteworthy is that stealing copper — typically from air conditioners or phone lines — is now a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
A new act establishes a thorough definition of what constitutes bullying at school and mandates educators establish an anonymous system for students to report harassment.
Beginning in 2010, cigarettes designed to self-extinguish will be mandatory in Florida. Statistics included in the law show that there were 153 house fires and five fatalities attributed to burning cigarettes in 2006.
Legislators hope to reduce those numbers by requiring merchants to exclusively sell cigarettes that burn out when not used. Think of a smoker falling asleep in bed.
That's one measure firefighters applaud. They're also excited about a new law that requires business owners to mount a sign outside their building if it's built using lightweight truss construction.
The aluminum gussets holding the roof together can collapse within 10 minutes of a fire breaking out, so it gives firefighters a better grasp on how much time they can spend in a building.
"It's definitely a good idea," said Bill Davies, assistant chief of Spring Hill Fire Rescue.
The penalties for some laws are getting stiffer, too. A second-time offender who sexually molests a child under the age of 12 automatically faces a life sentence. Abusing the elderly or disabled is now a first-degree felony instead of second degree.
A 95-page law also gives new authority to gang busting detectives like Pete Ciucci with the sheriff's office. The law officially lists in black-and-white the type of criteria Ciucci and others use to classify gang members and their associates.
With that established, law enforcement can use the new enhanced penalties attached to crimes committed as a gang member. For instance, leading a gang is now a first-degree felony and posting video or pictures of gang-related activity on the Internet is a third-degree felony.
Ciucci is still sorting through the bulk of the law, but he applauds Attorney General Bill McCollum's efforts towards beefing up gang prevention.
"I appreciate any tool they can give us," said Ciucci, who plans to take advantage of new funds released for gang prevention education.
Reporter Kyle Martin can be reached at 352-544-5271 or email@example.com.