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Unregistered Motor Vehicle Charges in Florida

Under Section 320.02(1) of the Florida Statutes, every driver, or “person in charge” of a vehicle in the state must register that vehicle with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. You can do this by visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles in person or online and obtaining a valid registration. Though this may seem like a simple task, sometimes life gets in the way and individuals forget to re-register their vehicle before expiration, or emergencies occur that cause someone to drive a motor vehicle without a proper registration. Both instances can result in criminal charges.

How Can I Get Charged for “Unregistered Motor Vehicle”?

This type of charge occurs when you are pulled over while driving by law enforcement for what is called a “moving violation” which includes infractions like speeding, swerving, failing to stop at a stop sign, etc. Once the officer pulls you over, they will use their computers to pull up your personal information and driving record. That is when they will discover whether the motor vehicle in operation possesses a valid registration. Keep in mind that, while a moving violation is the most common way a police officer will flag an unregistered vehicle, they do not need to see a moving violation to pull you over for this offense. If you are driving and an officer runs your license plate and finds out that your vehicle is not validly registered, they can pull you over for that alone.

Though a traffic citation is the most common way for officers to initiate a charge for an unregistered motor vehicle, more serious avenues can also be explored. A police officer can instead opt for the issuance of a Notice to Appear or make a physical arrest for the offense of an unregistered motor vehicle. Police officers have sole discretion in deciding which option to choose and will often examine a variety of factors before making the determination, like the driver’s record, prior arrests, and attitude during the stop.  Whatever option for initiation law enforcement chooses, you will have to go to court to address the charge against you. Due to an unregistered motor vehicle being classified as a criminal offense, court is non-negotiable. The officer will turn a copy of your ticket, Arrest Report, or Notice to Appear in to the clerk of courts, who will then create a case number for you in the court’s system. You will then receive a Notice of Hearing prompting you to appear before the court for an arraignment, which is where you will have the charges against you announced. After that, the proceedings will depend upon the circumstances, and if you have the help of a knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney.

What is a “Motor Vehicle” Under the Florida Statute?

Pursuant to Florida Statute 320.01, a motor vehicle, unless otherwise provided, includes:

  • An automobile;
  • A motorcycle;
  • A truck;
  • A trailer;
  • A semitrailer, or any combination;
  • A truck tractor;
  • Any other vehicle operated on a road in Florida used to transport people or property and propelled by power other than the human body; and
  • A recreational vehicle primarily designed for recreational use, travel use, or camping use, that has its own motor power or is mounted by another vehicle.

The statute excludes the following as motor vehicles:

  • Traction engines;
  • Road rollers;
  • Special mobile equipment as defined in Florida Statute 316.003;
  • Vehicles that run on a track;
  • Bicycles;
  • Swamp buggies; and
  • Mopeds

Penalties for Unregistered Motor Vehicle Charges

Late registration with a fee will help you avoid criminal charges, but if you are cited for driving without a valid registration, the penalties can be severe. Failing to register your vehicle in the state of Florida while you have resided here for over 6 months will result in a misdemeanor charge of the second-degree, punishable by any combination of the following:

  • Up to sixty (60) days of jail time;
  • Up to six (6) months of probation or community control; and
  • Up to five hundred dollars ($500) in fines.

Penalties can vary depending on the length of the lapse in registration.

Defense for Unregistered Motor Vehicle Charges

Vehicle Not Actually Operated

According to Section 320.01(1) of the Florida Statutes, motor vehicles that are not actually operated, as defined by the statute, are exempt from the registration requirement.

Not Actually a Motor Vehicle

According to Section 320.01(1) of the Florida Statutes, any vehicle that is not considered a motor vehicle under the statute is exempt from the registration requirement.

Not Proof of Registration

In order to be charged with this offense, the vehicle needs to actually be unregistered. Simply not having proof of a valid registration on your person at the time is a different matter than failing to have the car registered at all.

  • Lack of Knowledge

Some people simply forget to register their vehicle after the expiration date because they sincerely forgot. Since they had no knowledge that they were driving without a valid registration, an attorney could use this fact to have reduce or dismiss the charges.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

A lot of people fail to take traffic offenses seriously, but these charges can result in severe penalties, including jail time, probation, fines, and a permanent criminal record that could follow you or a loved one around for a lifetime. It is imperative that you or a loved one contact an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being charged with an unregistered motor vehicle. Don Pumphrey and the members of Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experiences defending Floridians against a wide array of criminal charges and ensure you or a loved one are affording the best defense possible. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message for an open and free consultation with a Tallahassee defense attorney from our team.

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