Published: Sep 30, 2010 3:49 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 30, 2010 12:49 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - An appeal court says Florida election law violators can avoid penalties by simply not responding to the charges against them.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday that's due to a glitch in a law passed three years ago.

If a candidate or other accused person fails to ask for a hearing before the Florida Elections Commission or settle the matter with the panel, the case automatically goes to an administrative law judge.

The new law says those judges must make final decisions. But the appeal court said the rub is that the law doesn't give them any power to impose fines.

The ruling affirmed an administrative order for no penalty against a legislative candidate found guilty of five violations.