The story below from someone who received a citation while driving their golf cart in The Villages was passed along to me this week, and I thought it was worth sharing with you here.
Its a great reminder that when you’re in a golf cart, traffic laws still apply and they might be different that the laws you follow when in your car.
The Villages Homeowner’s Association puts on monthly golf cart safety clinics the third Wednesday of every month at Savannah Center. These clinics are held with representatives from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. If you are unsure of the laws that govern the operation of your cart, it wouldn’t hurt to attend one of these.
Another resource I discovered while putting this article together is GolfCartSafety.com which is run by a local law firm representing people in cases involving carts, but regardless of how you feel about lawyers its a pretty good resource so check it out.
Anyway, here’s the email I received: (Names have been removed to protect the innocent)
Recently my wife and I were going to Spanish Springs to meet another couple for dinner and a movie. Somewhere along Morse Blvd., out of the blue, I see a Deputy Sheriff on a motorcycle with his lights flashing behind me in the (Golf Cart) ‘Diamond Lane’.
I pulled to a stop and the Deputy informed me that I was exceeding 20mph in my “golf cart”. He gave me a slip of paper which stated that the Florida Statute 320.01 defines a golf cart as a vehicle which is NOT CAPABLE of exceeding 20 mph.
Because of this, when I exceeded 20 mph I was no longer in a golf cart but I was driving a motorized vehicle on public roads without proper registration or license. He then served me with a citation to that effect and told me it was a criminal offense.
He also said that if I produced a certified letter from a golf cart shop that the golf cart was adjusted to not exceed 20 mph the judge may let me off with just court costs. The citation had a date that I was to appear in the county court in Bushnell, FL. It also stated “Criminal Violation court appearance required”.
I thought to myself – here I am enjoying one of the most talked about benefits of “Florida’s Most Friendly City” on my way to a movie and I end up as a criminal.
I was very anxious so when I got home I searched the internet trying to find out how hot the water was that I was in. I went to TalkOfTheVillages and found some discussion related to my situation.
I went to the Sumter County Clerk website and found that a CLASS 2 Misdemeanor was a Criminal offense punishable with a fine of up to $500 and 6 months in the county jail.
I thought WHAT! – Morse Blvd. has a speed limit of 30mph – I was not going any speed close to the limit and I could end up fined and in jail because I was in a golf cart and not in a car. And in addition to that I will now have a CRIMINAL RECORD.
Going to Court
I appeared in court in Bushnell at 9:00 a.m. on the proper date. Misdemeanor offenses are prosecuted in Courtroom B of the court house. The Judge took time to explain in great detail how the pleading process worked and the procedure that followed each type of plea. He also said that he puts everyone on probation, usually for six months, to allow them time to pay the costs incurred. One important note stated by the judge is that he evaluates each case on its own merits, so a person should not expect the same sentencing as any other person who committed the same violation. His questions to each person who I witnessed appearing before him, including myself, were to clarify the violation and circumstances related to it.
When I was called to come before him, he read the charge and ask me for my plea. My plea was “No Contest” because I had no idea I was creating a criminal offense by driving the golf cart in excess of 20 mph. I now know I was wrong, but I didn’t even think I was speeding since Morse Blvd. has a 30 mph speed limit.
The Judge was very pleasant and professional while carrying out his duties. He didn’t fine me but told me I had court costs to pay and that he was withholding adjudication for which I am very grateful. Also, I was placed on probation until the costs were paid.
I then had some papers to sign in the court room. After this I went to the County Clerks office to setup payment and find out the amounts due ($253-court costs) and then to the cashiers office to pay – cash, credit card, (no personal checks). She sent me down the street to take the probation clerk my receipt. The lady at this office had me fill out more papers of personal info. for their system and pay them $50. This could only be a money order, nothing else – no cash, no check, no credit card only a money order. The lady in the office said I could get a money order at the Shell gas station on the corner. I walk to the gas station and gave the clerk $51.50 for the $50 money order. After I gave the lady in the probation office the $50 money order she said the case was closed and I should get written notification within a week.
All the people at the court house were nice and pleasant to deal with. That includes the clerks, the deputies, and the Judge.
It cost $304.50 at the court house and approximately $125.00 for the certification of the golf cart. TOTAL $429.50
At the end of the process you have a CRIMINAL RECORD.
NOTE: Before you can enter the court room you must be wearing long pants (no Shorts), a tucked in shirt that is buttoned up, no hat, no sunglasses, no chewing gum.
My advice – Don’t exceed 20mph in a golf cart – Drive your car if you need to go faster.