Traffic Tickets Have Doubled, and Attorney Alex Hanna Profits

How did Miami drivers become the worst in the state? If clues exist, they're buried inside a mammoth beige building tucked behind palm trees off Flagler Street in Doral. Here, down a hallway whiter than a psychiatric ward, are the offices of Alex Hanna — South Florida's most successful traffic ticket attorney.

"They think of me as a genius when it comes to marketing. I became a media giant in advertising."

You've seen his face. He's that swarthy guy wearing a dark suit and a darker expression while thrusting forth a traffic ticket on signs throughout Little Havana and Hialeah.

Behind the front desk, a large sign bears Hanna's dictatorial expression. Past two clerks wearing shirts emblazoned with his picture are hundreds of photographs of Alex Hanna: on the walls, inside the kitchen, on mouse pads. Some images show him holding babies. Others depict him posing with politicians. In picture after picture, he glowers and tells you not to pay your traffic ticket.

At 4 p.m. on a recent weekday, Hanna arrives at his sprawling office — one of nine across Miami-Dade — wearing a gray V-neck and blue jeans. He's balder, thinner, and more smiley than in his advertisements. He's also hugging an armful of Alex Hanna swag, including a mouse pad, a key chain, a baseball cap, two T-shirts, and a miniature bus bench. Each is branded with that iconic picture of him beside the admonishment "¡No pagues ese ticket!"

Don't pay that ticket: It's a choice more South Floridians than ever before are facing. Over the past decade, the number of traffic citations in Miami-Dade has nearly doubled, from 673,264 in 2003 to 1.1 million in 2012, according to state statistics. And for the traffic ticket attorney, a relatively new species of lawyer that acts more capitalist than counsel, this surge has presented an incredible business opportunity.

No one has taken greater advantage of it than Alex Hanna and Mark Gold, two lawyers who, in terms of flamboyance and sweep, dwarf every other traffic ticket attorney in the state. Every year, they together handle roughly 540,000 South Florida traffic ticket cases — one-third of our regional output. "No matter what," Hanna says, "everyone gets a traffic ticket."

Still, the dramatic uptick over the past decade in Miami-Dade has left officials grasping for answers. In Broward, for instance, the number of annual violations has plateaued at 500,000. Statewide, the numbers are also steady: On average, about 4.5 million tickets are issued every year. So what's up with Miami? "I had no idea it's gone up that much," murmured Joe Sanchez, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman. "Well, we do have more people driving here than ever before. Plus more people are moving here, and there are a lot more SunPass violations."

But the real answer, says traffic ticket attorney Frank Menendez, has to do with demographics and immigration, which makes Miami an especially chaotic place to drive. "People come to this country and they don't know our rules or our signs right away," said Menendez, who owns TicketFit. "They drive like they're still in their own country."

Mark Gold, the five-foot-five owner of the Ticket Clinic, was the first one to recognize the lucrative aspect of traffic ticket economics. Because most adults drive, traffic tickets have the potential to affect nearly all of us, offering a tool not especially effective for most lawyers: mass advertising campaigns.

In the late '80s, while in his early 30s, Gold launched his first advertising campaign. He clogged the rock radio circuit and TV airwaves with traffic ticket ads, ignoring the supposition that many lawyers find promotion unbecoming if not positively repulsive. Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger once told a cadre of attorneys that he'd rather dig ditches than advertise.

The public, however, bit. And Gold, who then was just about the only ­attorney in South Florida exclusively working traffic ticket cases, started rolling in cash, though today he declines to specify exactly how much he makes. "That's private," a Ticket Clinic spokesperson said.

But the same iconoclasm that propelled Gold to advertise in the first place soon landed him in trouble. In 1988, he was criminally charged with aiding and abetting the unauthorized practice of law after he admitted to letting an unlicensed law school graduate defend clients in court. Charges were dismissed, but Gold was suspended from practice for ten days. In 1991, a Broward County judge accused Gold of telling "half-truths" and held him in contempt of court after Gold allegedly claimed he'd "just found out about" a DUI video that he, in fact, had already seen.

Through it all, Gold continued advertising, tapping into a new and profoundly fecund industry. "To the best of my knowledge," says law partner Ted Hollander, "he was the first person in the nation to work traffic tickets."

It paid off. Soon the Ticket Clinic was processing 15,000 traffic tickets per month in South Florida. According to a 1988 Miami Herald article, Gold racked up a remarkable success rate defending traffic violators because he questioned the calibration of speed guns and whether cops made mistakes while issuing citations — rarities at that time. Or if someone got busted for driving without a license, he'd try to prove the cops had no probable cause to stop the car in the first place.

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8 comments
sdali4927
sdali4927

"A rose by any other name would still small as sweet." William Shakespeare

joemiami11
joemiami11

Alex Hanna is everywhere, even in my soup. I guess you can't argue with success. Keep it up Alex, don't let haters hate!

Llamame a mi!

gumsandals
gumsandals

In this new era of political correctness, I was surprised to see "swarthy" used to describe somebody. Good to see. I also liked "dictatorial" to describe Hanna's persona. That's how he comes off to me and why I would never go to him for a ticket-- although I would consider hiring him as a hitman.

bellam3
bellam3

I can't believe that the "news" have come to this, peoples business is their own. Plus, Omelys Rene Abreu AKA Alex Hanna, had to copy someones business and idea just so he can make some money, i wouldn't give him my money again, not just because he lost several cases of mine but also, due to the fact he couldn't come up with anything on his own. I get this article is about mark gold, but with alex hanna lying about his name, makes me feel cheated. Who can we really give our money to? a liar who can't come up with anything of his own, or probably couldn't even get a lawyer job, or maybe Daddy gives him all the money for millions of advertising. He's a wanna be lawyer. From this article i can tell that mark gold is a real lawyer, he sues people, and he wins the cases, " he sued a Porsche Cars North America over a $3,222.84 bill and hammered the Sliding Door Company of Florida"; From what i have read on yelp, a judge said that alex hanna has never been to traffic court.

bellam3
bellam3

I can't believe that the "news" has come to this, peoples business is their own. Plus, Omelys Rene Abreu AKA Alex Hanna, had to copy someones business and idea just so he can make some money, i wouldn't give him my money again, not just because he lost several cases of mine but also, due to the fact he couldn't come up with anything on his own. I get this article is about mark gold, but with alex hanna lying about his name, makes me feel cheated. Who can we really give our money to? a liar who can't come up with anything of his own, or probably couldn't even get a lawyer job, or maybe Daddy gives him all the money for millions of advertising. He's a wanna be lawyer. From this article i can tell that mark gold is a real lawyer, he sues people, and he wins the cases, " he sued a Porsche Cars North America over a $3,222.84 bill and hammered the Sliding Door Company of Florida"; From what i have read on yelp, a judge said that alex hanna has never been to traffic court 

bellam3
bellam3

I can't believe that the "news" have come to this, peoples business is their own. Plus, Omelys Rene Abreu AKA Alex Hanna, had to copy someones business and idea just so he can make some money, i wouldn't give him my money again, not just because he lost several cases of mine but also, due to the fact he couldn't come up with anything on his own. I get this article is about mark gold, but with alex hanna lying about his name, makes me feel cheated. Who can we really give our money to? a liar who can't come up with anything of his own, or probably couldn't even get a lawyer job, or maybe Daddy gives him all the money for millions of advertising. He's a wanna be lawyer. From this article i can tell that mark gold is a real lawyer, he sues people, and he wins the cases, " he sued a Porsche Cars North America over a $3,222.84 bill and hammered the Sliding Door Company of Florida"; From what i have read on yelp, a judge said that alex hanna has never been to traffic court And who cares that mark gold had a stripper ex-fiancé, obviously she beat him up, thats clear to see. 

james32937
james32937

@bellam3

He's using a pseudonym for his real name just like a lot of writers.   

james32937
james32937

@bellam3 He's using a pseudonym for his real name just like a lot of writers.   

 
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