His brother, Daniel P. Novak, whose own license was suspended in November for failure to pay traffic fines, had given his brother's name when an officer stopped him. The impersonation forced Donald Novak to miss days of work to go to court to fight the blemish on his driving record.

Daniel Novak, 44, was arrested July 13 on felony forgery charges because he signed his brother's name to the ticket, according to court records.

Donald Novak, 42, said his brother has also used his name to get cell phones, cable TV service and other credit, much of which went unpaid until Novak cleared it up. But this was the first time his brother used his name during a traffic stop, he said.

Novak went to the traffic division of the Martin County Circuit Court, paid $18 for a court date, and was sent to the ticketing officer, Martin County Sheriff's Deputy James Piatak to plead his case.

Piatak didn't believe him at first, Novak said."He knew right away I wasn't the guy he pulled over, but insisted I pay the ticket anyway," Novak said. "He could have dropped it right then and there."

But Novak persisted, producing time sheets from his employer placing him at work at the time of the traffic stop. He took another day off work to go to court and fight the ticket, which Piatak dismissed three weeks ago.

"It cost me more going through this than it did if I had just paid the ticket," he said, although the violation would have remained on his record.

Piatak said the February stop of a white Chrysler with expired tags was fairly routine. The driver didn't have his license on him, but gave the name Donald Novak and a birthdate.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Lt. Jenell Atlas said it's definitely a problem in the sheriff's office, and said it's horrible when victims have to jump through hoops to clear their own record.

"It's a pain and it happens a lot with bad guys who've run out their own name and trashed their own driving record," she said. "It affects insurance costs and sometimes it's years before everything's fixed."

Both Atlas and Piatak said the biggest problem is proof you weren't driving the car. Even then, the sheriff's office can only issue a warrant for the arrest of the person who stole your identity.

As soon as you learn about the fraud, be it through a court summons, a license suspension warning or someone telling you about it, contact the deputy who issued the ticket. If you can't find the name of the ticketing officer, call the courthouse and ask for the traffic division. They will be able to tell you who issued the ticket, said Marsha Ewing, Martin County's clerk of the courts.

If the officer can't dismiss the ticket, a magistrate will have to get involved, review the evidence and decide whether to dismiss. You can get a court date through the traffic division.

If the magistrate or the officer decides to dismiss the ticket, the traffic division can help get the paperwork through to Tallahassee that will expunge a citation from your driving record.

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