Civil Speeding Tickets in Arizona

The Law

Most speeding tickets are civil in nature (as opposed to criminal speeding tickets).  You can usually identify if your speeding ticket is civil by looking to see if the “civil” box is checked on your ticket.  A.R.S. 28-701(A) is the statute that addresses speeding.  In an nutshell:

“A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, conditions and actual and potential hazards then existing. A person shall control the speed of a vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle or other conveyance on, entering or adjacent to the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to exercise reasonable care for the protection of others.”

There is no “intent” requirement in speeding tickets.  What this means is that why you were speeding is not legally relevant; only whether or not you were speeding is legally relevant.  The court does not care if you were driving your dying mother to the hospital.  If the court determines by a “preponderance of the evidence” that you were speeding, you will be found responsible.  What is “preponderance of the evidence” you may be asking.  It means that the court must determine that it is more likely than not that you were speeding in order to find you responsible.  This is a far cry from the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.  Basically, if the court thinks there is a greater than 50% chance you were speeding, you will be found responsible.

If you are found responsible, in addition to having to pay a fine you will receive three points on your license.

The Process

When you receive a speeding ticket, there will be a date on your ticket.  This date, often referred to as a “civil arraignment date,”  is the date by which you must take some sort of action.  You have three choices of action:  One, you can pay the fine.  Two, you can take Defensive Driving Diversion if you do so at least 7 days before the date on your ticket.  Three, you can request a civil traffic hearing.  If you take any of these actions before the date on your ticket, you will not need to appear in court.  If you do not take any action, then you need to appear in court on the date on your ticket.  If you do not take any action and you do not appear in court, the court will enter a judgment against you and suspend your license.

Defenses

When you show up to a civil traffic hearing to contest your ticket, you will have an opportunity to testify about the events leading up to the ticket and why you believe the officer was mistaken about your speed.  The officer will also have an opportunity to testify.  At the civil traffic hearing, we may challenge things like the calibration of the laser or radar gun, the officer’s training in the use of laser or radar guns, the officer’s ability to observe the alleged violation, and other factual issues that may arise.  We always look for any technical or procedural violations on behalf of the State that may have occurred too.  Sometimes, the officer even fails to appear for the civil traffic hearing and the speeding ticket is dismissed.  On occasion, we have been able to negotiate with the officer to obtain a reduced violation that either carries no points or reflects fewer mph over the speed limit, which can be helpful for drivers who hold a CDL or who drive for a living.

Absurd Things Cops Say in Court

One of the unbelievable things you will hear cops testify to in court now is their supernatural ability to visually estimate the speed of a car.  In other words, the cop will testify that he can tell the difference between a car traveling at 60 mph and one traveling at 54 mph.  It’s ridiculous, but judges often believe it.

Should You Hire an Attorney?

This is a decision only you can make.  If you are eligible for Defensive Driving Diversion, taking the 4-hour Defensive Driving Diversion class is certainly the least-expensive and least risky route.  If you are not eligible for Defensive Driving Diversion because you have taken it within the last 24 months or because you are a CDL holder, you have nothing to lose by fighting your ticket, other than some time and the cost of an attorney should you choose to use one.