HOW TO BEGIN
If you want to appeal, you will have 30 days after the Hearing Officer’s final order is issued to file a certiorari petition. Fla. R. App. P. 9.100(c), 9.190(b)(3). This deadline is jurisdictional and heavily enforced.
The deadline applies even if the Department is late in giving you the final order or other documents you would need to complete the petition. In that case, you still need to file the petition within the 30-day deadline, even if only a barebones one, and you can ask for leave to amend the petition and appendix in the near future (which should be granted with little trouble).
Once you know you’re appealing, you need to gather the following:
If you can’t get everything for some reason, you may exclude it from the appendix if it isn’t relevant (except for the final order), as the appellate rules only require you to include what is necessary to resolve the issues presented. See Fla. R. App. P. 9.220. For example, we usually don’t include the client’s driving record because the Department doesn’t provide it to us and it’s irrelevant—but if it becomes relevant, then of course you should obtain and include it.
This next step is important: Get the hearing audio officially transcribed as soon as possible. The transcript is usually essential, and it can take as long as a couple weeks to be completed, and then you have to incorporate it into the petition—all before the 30-day deadline. For transcription, we generally use Marge Raeder Court Reporting at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PREPARING THE APPENDIX
The appendix is required and governed by Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.220. You will file the appendix with the certiorari petition. Do the following to create an appendix that complies with the rule:
Note that you may choose to start drafting the petition before the appendix is completed (owing to the strict deadline), but you won’t be able to finalize the petition until the appendix is completed because your factual and procedural assertions must cite the appendix and be accurate.
WRITING THE PETITION
Petitions invoking the original jurisdiction of appellate courts (including certiorari petitions) are technically different from appeals and are governed by different rules. Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.100(g) and (l) govern these petitions. Here are their requirements:
You now have to choose which court you’re filing the petition in (considering it will be reflected in the caption and jurisdictional statement). The petition can be heard by the circuit court in either the county wherein the client resides or the county where the hearing was held. § 322.2615(13), Fla. Stat. E.g., if the client was stopped and arrested in Lake County, the client lives in Polk County, and the hearing was held in Orange County, you must file in either Polk or Orange County.
Once you’ve written everything except for the table of contents and table of citations, you will need to place a certificate of compliance immediately after the certificate of service. Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.100(l) requires this certificate, which must certify that the petition complies with the font requirements of the rule by being double-spaced and in Arial 14-point font or Bookman Old Style 14-point font. Once this certificate is included and you’re done revising the petition, you’re ready to finalize the table of contents and table of citations.
Here are some last things to note while writing the petition:
HOW TO FILE THE PETITION (WITH PICTURES)
These are the instructions for filing in Orange County, but it could differ in other counties.
In the eFiling portal, navigate to the E-Filing Map and click “Case Initiation,” select the county you’re filing in, and click on “File Now.”
You should now be on the “Case Information” tab with some drop-downs to fill out:
Proceed to the “Documents” tab, and you’ll see that a civil cover sheet has been autogenerated for you. This is where you submit the petition and appendix (and other documents if applicable, such as a motion to consolidate or a motion for attorney’s fees and costs).
Proceed to the “ServiceList” tab. Serve the Department at Office of General Counsel, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 2900 Apalachee Parkway, A-432, Tallahassee, FL 32399, at OGCFiling@flhsmv.gov.
After that, you just have to pay the $400 filing fee, review your submissions, and file.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THE INITIAL PETITION IS FILED
Unlike with regular appeals, filing a petition will not automatically set a briefing schedule. Instead, you must wait until the court determines whether the petition presents a “preliminary basis for relief”; if it does, the court will then issue an order to show cause, directing the Department to file a response and allowing you to file a reply. See Fla. R. App. P. 9.100(h).
The court will generally require the response to be filed within 30 days of the order to show cause and the reply to be filed within 30 days after the response is filed. Note that the petition, response, and reply correspond with the initial brief, answer brief, and reply brief in regular appeals.
Finally, you should file a request for oral argument to get the full attention of the court. The deadline to file such a request is 15 days after the deadline to file the reply. Fla. R. App. P. 9.320(b).
Important: The request for oral argument must be filed as a separate document. Fla. R. App. P. 9.320. If you try to request oral argument in your petition or reply, the request may be disregarded as invalid.