The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Florida police gave drivers a website for paying traffic fines. It directed them to pro-Trump merchandise.

Items for sale at the Save America Summit in Florida in April 2021. (Scott McIntyre for The Washington Post)

Drivers hit with traffic violations in Miami Beach expected to go to an official website where they could handle their tickets.

After all, they’d gotten the Web address from fliers given to them by the police officers who’d cited them in the first place.

But the link provided did not take drivers to the Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Courts website, where they would have been able to pay their fines or elect to go to traffic school. Instead, it directed them to a page hawking pro-Trump merchandise, much of it supporting the former president’s potential run to reclaim the White House in 2024.

Offerings on the site include a Trump 2024 flag with the addendum “Let’s Go Brandon”; a garden flag that reads, “In this house we believe … Trump belongs in the White House”; and the 97-minute film “Trump 2024: The World After Trump,” which purports to document the “aggressive movement to transform America, strip away its freedoms and Judeo-Christian values.”

How ‘Let’s go Brandon’ became an unofficial GOP slogan

Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told The Washington Post in an email that the department discovered a typo in the flier last week and told its roughly 400 officers to stop giving them to drivers. It has corrected the mistake and is working on reprinting the inserts, Rodriguez said.

In the meantime, officers are giving drivers outdated brochures without information about the online services, he told the Miami Herald, which first reported the story.

Rodriguez didn’t answer The Post’s questions about how many fliers had been handed out or if the department is investigating whether the pro-Trump link was included intentionally.

At issue: punctuation. The Miami-Dade court clerk’s website is The one that redirects people to a page with links to pro-Trump merchandise is almost the same, but without the hyphen.

The flier Miami Beach officers were handing out — titled “Received a Traffic Citation?” — included both. It first gave the no-hyphen version when informing drivers they have to request a court hearing before having their citation dismissed. Later, it gave the correct website for the court clerk in telling drivers how to request a hearing to contest a citation.

Few details are available about the entity that owns the non-hyphenated site, although domain records show it is hosted by Epik, which has kept alive far-right websites such as Gab and Parler when they were dumped by more mainstream Web-hosting services, NPR reported last year.

Miami-Dade court officials launched their new online services in April 2020. A month later, they sent out fliers to police across the county with the correct Web address throughout, a court spokesperson told the Herald. But the Miami Beach Police Department made its own version, which is when the typo was inserted, Rodriguez told the newspaper.

Judge Steve Leifman told the Herald it was “disgusting” for a website associated with the judiciary to direct people to political merchandise. The judge said he hopes court officials can get control of the no-hyphen website and fold it into the hyphenated version that the clerk registered in 1999.

Paul Ozaeta, a lieutenant and president of the Miami Beach police union, told the Herald he’s confident that if any officers had spotted the error on the flier, they would have alerted their supervisors.

“Most officers don’t sit there and say, ‘Let me make sure all of the links are right,’” he said. “If they say hand them out, you hand them out.”

When the court’s new online services started in the spring of 2020, Miami Beach Police Maj. David de la Espriella told the Herald the department needed to educate people about them.

“As with all new information technology processes, all that has to be explained as much as possible,” he said, “so there’s no confusion.”