Frequently I hear “I got a speeding ticket”. My response is usually “What kind?”
(Not sure what to look for on a traffic ticket? Look here for an infographics on how to read a traffic ticket).
There are different types, or I think of them as “levels”, of speeding ticket. Knowing what kind of ticket you got can help you determine your fine exposure, DMV impact, and your basic defenses. Generically speaking, there are 3 levels of speeding you can get cited under : 1) Basic Speed Law 2) Maximum Speed Law and 3) exceeding 100mph.
Basic Speed Law
Basic Speed law applies to going over the posted speed limit but less than 65mph. This is the usual surface streets speeding. Say the street is posted at 45mph, and you were going 50mph, you would most likely get cited for this ticket. The fine for this one should range $238-$490, depending on how much over the speed limit your were cited for. You can check the fines on the California Uniform Bail Schedule. After you get a citation from the officer, you will usually get a “courtesy notice” in the mail from the court. Your courtesy notice should have this information as well. This should tell you the fine (and usually traffic school eligibility). DMV exposure for this is 1 point. Also note that fines could differ based on if you have “priors” or if the offense was in a double fine zone.
What separates basic speed law from the other sections is that there is no specific “number” established for mph. It only states that one cannot drive faster than is reasonable or prudent under the circumstances. So why is there a posted speed limit? Under VC § 22351, the posted speed limit is presumed to be the reasonable or prudent speed. What this means for you is that you have the opportunity to challenge the presumption that the posted speed limit is the reasonable or prudent speed. If there was a radar involved in your citation, the posted speed limit usually needs to be justified by an engineering and traffic survey, otherwise it can be considered a “speed trap”.
V C Section 22350 Basic Speed Law
Basic Speed Law
22350. No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.
Maximum Speed Law
Maximum Speed Law applies to speeding over 65mph on the freeway (or 70mph if posted for 70mph). This is the usual ticket for speeding on the freeway. A recurring example is: about once a week someone tells me they got cited 80mph on the 101. The fine for this also should range $238-$490, depending on how much over the speed limit your were cited for. DMV exposure for this is 1 point. Unfortunately, under this ticket, it doesn’t matter if your speed was justified or reasonable under the circumstances. All needed to be established was that you went over 65mph (or in the situations of 55mph or 70mph).
V C Section 22349 Maximum Speed Limit (copied in part)
22349. (a) Except as provided in Section 22356, no person may drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person may drive a vehicle upon a two-lane, undivided highway at a speed greater than 55 miles per hour unless that highway, or portion thereof, has been posted for a higher speed by the Department of Transportation or appropriate local agency upon the basis of an engineering and traffic survey….
Speeding over 100 MPH
Exceeding 100mph under VC § 22348 (an infraction), is worth mentioning, because unlike the other 2 tickets, under this section, the court could suspend one’s license for up to 30 days for a first offense. The fine for this should be $900. DMV exposure is 2 points. Like maximum speed law, it doesn’t really matter if your speed was reasonable under the circumstances. Another nuance is that if you are cited with speeding >100mph, because of the 2 point violation and the potential to your surrender license, usually you must appear, or have an attorney appear for you. If there is a mandatory appearance, you cannot simply just pay the fine online, so that’s when it can start to become inconvenient.
This is not to be confused with Exhibition of Speed VC § 23109(c), which could be a misdemeanor, and DMV exposure is also 2 points.
V C Section 22348 Excessive Speed and Designated Lane Use (copied in part)
Excessive Speed and Designated Lane Use
(b) A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 100 miles per hour is guilty of an infraction punishable, as follows
(1) Upon a first conviction of a violation of this subdivision, by a fine of not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500). The court may also suspend the privilege of the person to operate a motor vehicle for a period not to exceed 30 days pursuant to Section 13200.5.