How to Look Up Laws on Florida's Online Statutes (for non-lawyers)

If you get a ticket or are charged with a crime you may, at your leisure, decide to look up what it is you are charged with and maybe even try to find out what the penalty could be. If you have done this you probably gave up in frustration. Don't feel bad - Lawyers often feel the same way.

As an example, I recently had a client charged with a traffic violation that carried with it a $1000 fine. At first blush you might think my client was charged with speeding in a school zone at the Holy Nun Academy or worse. That's a huge fine!

Unfortunately, for my client, all he did was have a screw come loose on his License Plate tag holder on his motorcycle. Yes, it is a $1000 fine for placing a tag on a motorcycle that makes it hard to read, but enough about that.

I wanted to find out where this fine amount was located in the statutes. There are several ways to access the online statutes. I like the senate's access because I know where the search feature is there (http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/ ). I started with the statute number for the infraction itself - section 316.2085(3), Florida Statutes. 

The license tag of a motorcycle or moped must be permanently affixed to the vehicle and remain clearly visible from the rear at all times. ...
 There was nothing about the fine amount in this section at all. Instead it referred to:
A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
Well, thanks for the specificity - an entire chapter? Anyhoo, I search for section 316.2085 in chapter 318 but lo and behold nothing comes up. How can this be?

Let me digress a bit. The online Florida Statutes has a great free search feature that can help you out a lot. I utilize it every time I do research there. Second, as a lawyer I know that the legislature has no rhyme or reason behind how they write these laws. SO the search feature is a must. There may be a method to the madness but the Florida Legislature is not sharing that information. I also know that they like to embed laws within laws and that knowledge helps me with my searches.

I decide to do a search for this particular statute (316.2085) in chapters 318, 320, 322, and back in 316 (the common chapters for all things relating to driving a motor vehicle in Florida). Doing that I find that there is a reference to it in section 316.1926 (additional offenses). This is very brief but it gives me a clue. Within this section is not only what I'm looking for but reference to the violation for exceeding the speed limit by 50 mph. This I know is a $1,000 fine citation.

Now I search chapter 318 for section 316.1926 and wallah! There it is! Chapter 318 references penalties for section 316.1926 not 316.2085. It is confusing. It often times has you scratching your head. But it can be negotiated with the help of the search feature that, thoughtfully, was included in this great reference. And, did I mention, it is free!

- is an Orlando attorney practicing criminal defense. He represents clients seeking criminal record expungements throughout the state of Florida and all traffic infractions/charges in Central Florida.

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