TAMPA - Not all civil traffic fines were created equally by the Florida Legislature.
In most Florida counties, the fastest way to lighten your wallet is to get too heavy on the gas pedal.
The most expensive civil traffic fine in Hillsborough County is $443. That's what you pay for exceeding the speed limit in a construction or school zone by more than 20 miles per hour. If you keep your excessive speed below 20 miles per hour over the limit, the fine is only $393.
Fine amounts vary by county. Some counties add their own administrative fees to fine amounts established by state statute.
Pat Frank, Hillsborough's circuit court clerk, runs the busiest civil traffic division in the Tampa Bay area. During 2010, the latest year for which the state courts administrator has released data, 112,778 new civil traffic cases were opened in Hillsborough. That was a 21 percent increase since 2006.
In distant second place was the civil traffic division of Pinellas County, where Clerk Ken Burke's staff docketed 33,382 new cases in 2010. That was an increase of less than 1 percent since 2006.
The largest percentage increase between 2006 and 2010 was in Sarasota County, where Clerk Karen Rushing logged 15,825 new civil traffic cases two years ago. That was a 40 percent jump from 2006.
While those increases hold the potential for enriching government treasuries, a 2007 report by legislative researchers found that Florida clerks had a harder time collecting assessments for traffic violations than financial fees for any other type of criminal or civil case, except those dealing with juvenile delinquents. Only 37 percent of Florida clerks met their goals for collecting traffic fines.
Clerks told researchers with the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability that out-of-state tourists traveling interstate highways weren't paying their fines. The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is authorized to notify other states whenever one of their drivers is convicted of violating a Florida motor vehicle law.
On Tuesday night at 11, find out why thousands of motorists are paying Hillsborough County traffic fines that they might very well have avoided. It's an I-Team investigation you'll only see on ABC Action News.
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