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Lawyer wins points with traffic violators

Lawyer Mark Gold likes fast cars, particularly red Ferraris. He has gotten a lot of traffic tickets driving them.

He has kept a clean driving record, though, by defending himself in court. In the last three months, he has turned that defense experience into a growing business.

Gold, 32, opened the Ticket Clinic at 2615 Biscayne Blvd. in June. The law firm handles mostly speeding tickets and drunk driving cases. For a flat fee, he or his associate files a plea of not guilty and tries the case in court.

Gold’s firm is one of the first in the country to devote most of its practice to defending traffic tickets, an unusual legal specialty, said Judith Korchin, Dade County Bar president.

The firm also breaks with legal tradition by relying on advertising to draw customers.

Ominous-sounding radio commercials on WGTR and WPOOW tell listeners that traffic violations could put points on their license and raise their insurance premiums. The firm started making a television commercial Sept. 10, and Gold said he hopes to advertise on billboards and newspapers.

Steve Zack, chairman of the Dade Bar committee that reviews advertising, said it's more common, but most lawyers still aren’t comfortable with it. “The profession still thinks of itself as a profession and not a business hawking its wares, ”Zack said. Gold is comfortable with it. He says advertising is a business strategy, a way of telling as many people as possible about his services.

He’s happy with his strategy so far. Gold said the Ticket Clinic is swamped with the request. He is hiring another lawyer and opening a Fort Lauderdale office in the next few weeks.

The law firm handles mostly speeding tickets and drunk driving cases.

After that, he hopes to open Cutler Ridge and Palm Beach offices. Eventually, he wants to have Ticket Clinics all over the state.

“Everybody needs this kind of defense,” he said. Especially men between the ages of 18 and 34, the majority of Gold’s clients, he said. “They get more tickets than anybody.”

Especially people who rely on their vehicles for work, such as truck drivers, taxi drivers, electric and telephone repair workers. “They’re very concerned with keeping their licenses clean.”

Gold, a University of Miami law school graduate, tries to do that for them at $149 plus tax for a Dade Count traffic ticket and $495 plus tax for a drunk driving citation.

When Gold defends the client, he looks for technicalities that will win the case for him: procedures that weren’t followed correctly, improper use of radar equipment, or Breathalyzer testing.” The fault isn’t the issue,” he said. “We very zealously defend the clients. We get some police officers mad at us because we’re good at it.”

Traffic judges and Florida Highway patrol officers say it’s all in a day’s work.

“In a lot of situations, the issue is not guilt or innocence,” said Traffic Judge Harvey Baxter. “The citizens are availing themselves of every right they have.”

“Everybody’s entitled to counsel,” said patrol Lt. Noel Roy. “If you lose a ticket, it’s just one of those things.”

When Gold is not defending traffic tickets or drunk driving cases, he’s managing the commercial litigation practice he runs out of the same office. He started that in 1985 after working for a larger law firm that specialized in commercial litigation.

When friends started asking him to defend their traffic tickets, he knew he had discovered a new legal specialty.

His discovery has been fruitful so far. “We’re working very hard,” said Gold, a North Miami resident. “I never imagined that this would take off so fast.”