I-Team: Florida collects more than $100 million from traffic citations

And that's not counting the local take

TAMPA - That last speeding ticket you got? That's adding up to big money for cities, counties and the state.

That shouldn't come as any surprise if you consider that more than 4 million traffic citations were written in Florida in 2010. Those tickets cover everything from speeding to improper lane changes to careless driving.

In the last 12 months, the state has pocketed $101 million from traffic citations, according to information obtained by the ABC Action News I-Team from the Florida Department of Revenue. That figure doesn't even include the money distributed to individual counties and cities.

Florida law spells out a complex system for dividing the money earned from traffic citations. Because the money is divided among so many agencies, getting a handle on the staggering amount of money brought in by traffic tickets is difficult.

"If there is a companion charge that is higher than traffic violation, then the traffic violation is heard in either county or circuit criminal," said Hillsborough County budget director Rick Van Arsdall.

For example, a person stopped for speeding but then arrested on a drug charge wouldn't be included in the traffic citation statistics.

What is clear is that counties and cities earn a big chunk of revenue from traffic tickets, too. In Hillsborough County, from October 2010 to October 2011, the county took in $36.5 million from 225,525 citations, according to the clerk's office. The county kept $10.3 million of that.

St. Petersburg earned $491,446 in citations written by city police in 2011. That came from 31,914 citations and 7,788 tickets for crashes.

Tampa, meanwhile, earned $1.1 million from tickets in 2011.

On Tuesday at 11 p.m., the I-Team is exposing a loophole that may invalidate nearly one in five traffic tickets written in Hillsborough County. We're looking into why it's happening and what's being done about it.

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