Foreign Drivers in Florida May Get a Break With International Permit Repeal

Given that tourism is the economic heartbeat of Florida, it’s no surprise that state legislators want to ensure that everyone feels welcome, especially those who travel long distances.
Our West Palm Beach traffic ticket lawyers are sure that has a lot to do with how quickly House Bill 7059 is making its way through the state House of Representatives.

The law is actually an effort to repeal an earlier measure that went into effect the beginning of this year that requires Canadian tourists to pay a $25 fee in order to obtain an international driving permit in order to be road-worthy on Florida thoroughfares.

The law has not only caused a huge back-up at automobile associations in Canada, it has raised serious concerns about whether these individuals will be targeted by law enforcement looking for cars outfitted with Canadian tags.

The measure caused a number of snowbirds from Canada, many of whom spend months on end here in the Sunshine State, to simply stay home. Many were worried that if they didn’t have a permit, they would be breaking the law.

In fact, some 3 million Canadians visited the state last year. That was a 4 percent increase from the year before, and it’s estimated these visitors bring about $4.5 billion to the state annually.

The law, an amendment to Florida Statute 332.04, was passed after law enforcement officials complained about difficulty in having to decipher international driver’s licenses that were often in a language other than English. The law would require all international visitors to the country to get a permit from their own country before they can drive here in Florida.

There were reports in Canada of three-hour-long waits – or more – for one of the permits.

However, the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles announced in February that the law wasn’t enforceable, saying it was likely to violate the standards created by the Geneva Convention of 1949.

According to those rules, non-resident visitors to Florida who want to drive need only have in their immediate possession a valid driver’s license issued in his or her name from either another state or U.S. territory or from their country of residence.

Still, given the sheer number of international tourists our state hosts every year, even the repeal of this measure isn’t going to be the end citations and arrests of foreign nationals visiting Florida.

If you are a foreigner arrested in the U.S., under the Fifth and Fourteenth Constitutional Amendments, you are afforded the same rights of due process as citizens accused of a crime. That includes traffic offenses, and it includes your right to consult with an attorney before speaking to police about anything other than your name, age, and basic information.

Many of our northern neighbors have expressed relief at the repeal of this law, saying that it will ensure they continue to be treated equally in the state of Florida. If nothing else, some said, it was a serious annoyance.

If you are stopped and hassled over your lack of an international driving permit, we are here to help.

If you are battling a traffic ticket in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Florida House moving quickly to repeal international driver permit law, March 12, 2013, By John Kennedy, Toni-Ann Miller, Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
More Blog Entries:
Report: Fewer West Palm Beach Traffic Tickets, July 17, 2012, West Palm Beach Traffic Ticket Lawyer Blog

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