Excessive speed, also known as criminal speeding, is probably the most common criminal traffic violation that we see. If you have received a criminal speeding ticket, you’re not alone.
How Can An Attorney Help?
Below, we cover many of the questions that come up with excessive speed tickets. If you would rather talk about your case with a human, please give us a call and we can talk through your situation.
Our consultations are no-cost, and we don’t engage in any high-pressure sales. We want to help, and if your best path forward doesn’t involve an attorney, we’ll tell you that too.
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What is Criminal Speeding?
A person shall not:
1. Exceed 35 mph approaching a school zone.
2. Exceed the posted speed limit in a stainless or residential district by more than 20 mph, or if no speed limit is posted, exceed 45 mph.
3. Exceed the posted speed limit by more than 20 mph in other locationsA.R.S. 28-701.02(A)
In other words, if a driver is exceeding the posted speed limit by more than 20 mph, they may get an excessive speed ticket.
Police use a variety of methods to measure speed. Radar, LIDAR and pace are all popular in Arizona. This page discusses the methods and potential problems with each.
What kind of consequences am I looking at?
For the vast majority of people, if they are found guilty of criminal speeding, they are looking at:
- A class 3 misdemeanor criminal conviction.
- A fine in the $300-$600 range.
- 3 points in Arizona.
Jail time is unlikely.
Jail is rare in excessive speed cases, but it does happen. Usually we see jail time coming up in city courts like Scottsdale City Court.
Theoretically, the following maximum consequences are possible under the law:
- Class 3 misdemeanor criminal conviction.
- Fines up to $500 plus surcharges and court assessments that could nearly double the fine.
- Up to 30 days in jail.
- Up to 1 year probation.
- 3 points on Arizona driving record.
What are the possible outcomes in a criminal speed case?
Possible outcomes include:
- Dismissal after taking online traffic school (defensive driving school)
- Dismissal for other reasons
- Reduction to a civil speeding violation
- Pleading guilty to the charge
- Found guilty after trial
Our primary goal is usually to avoid the criminal conviction. This can happen a few different ways.
Defensive Driving Diversion
Defensive driving diversion, alternatively known as defensive driving school, is the ideal outcome in an excessive speed case because it results in the charge being dismissed. In an excessive speed case this option is only available at the discretion of the judge. Some judges will never allow defensive driving diversion, whereas other judges may allow it even if the alleged speed is 100 mph or more. A clean driving record really helps when making this request to the court.
Negotiate a plea to a regular (non-criminal) speeding ticket.
If we cannot achieve defensive driving diversion, obtaining a plea to a civil speeding violation is usually the next best outcome. There are two approaches we focus on when trying to negotiate a plea to a civil speeding violation.
First, we try to create doubt as to whether our client actually committed the alleged violation. We look for errors or inconsistencies in the citing officer’s story, and we also look for facts that would call into doubt the officer’s allegations. The goal is to convince the prosecutor that they would be unlikely to prevail at trial, and that offering a civil plea is a better use of resources than taking the matter to trial.
The second approach is to leverage notable details in our client’s background, such as work or school achievements, community involvement, volunteer work, commendations, letters of reference, or anything else that tends to show that our client is a peaceful, productive, an law-abiding citizen who should be given a break. Often, these personal details make a big difference in the outcome we are able to achieve.
After we have finished the discovery process, we may submit a written request to the prosecution asking the prosecution to deviate from the charge. In other words, we may ask them to offer a plea to something less, like a civil speeding ticket. This request will present all of the defendant’s good background details and ideally we can make a factual argument too.
Get the charge dismissed.
This is very rare, because there is frequently evidence that our client was speeding, even if it was not criminal, and the prosecutor will at least want our client to plead to a civil speeding violation and pay a fine. Nevertheless, on occasion there is some irregularity or a failure of the State to follow the applicable rules that results in the case being dismissed. We are always on the lookout for such details that could result in a dismissal.
Proceed to trial or plead to the charge.
If we cannot achieve defensive driving diversion, a reduced plea, or a dismissal, two options remain: taking the case to trial or pleading to the violation. By the time we get to this decision point, we have all of the information that is available and that will be used at trial, so our client can make an informed decision.
If we have not found any information to refute the State’s claims, often it makes more sense to plead to the charge rather than spend the time and resources to go through a trial we will almost certainly lose. However, if we have found information that calls into doubt the officer’s allegations and we believe we can make a plausible argument, then we will take the case to trial.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get a criminal speed ticket for exceeding 85 mph?
Yes, but you would have to be exceeding the posted speed limit by more than 20 mph. Prior to September 29, 2021, a driver could be issued an excessive speed ticket for exceeding 85 mph, regardless of the posted speed limit.
Can you get a criminal speeding ticket from a photo enforcement device?
Yes. We have seen both Scottsdale and Paradise Valley issue excessive speed tickets based on speed measurement by a photo enforcement device.
We frequently see photo enforcement tickets for excessive speeds (speeds in excess of 20 mph over the posted limit) that are civil though. It appears that these two cities generally only issue criminal speeding tickets from photo enforcement when the speed is particularly egregious (like 90 in a 45) or for someone who has generated multiple photo enforcement tickets at excessive speeds.
How long will it take to complete my case?
On occasion, we are able to resolve cases at the first pretrial conference. Sometimes it takes us a year or more to resolve these cases. Most cases fall somewhere in between. Three to four months is usually a good estimate of time.
Will I have to appear in court?
If you hire an attorney, your attorney can often attend the pretrial conferences without you. Some courts require that a defendant attend pretrial conferences, but this is the exception rather than the rule. We represent many clients from out-of-state who never return to Arizona or attend court. You can discuss whether or not your presence is necessary with your attorney. If your case goes to trial, you will almost certainly need to attend the trial in person.
What if I don’t live in Arizona?
Most courts will let you appear by telephone for court appearances other than a trial. Some courts may require you to make this request in writing, others not. If you live out of state, call the court and ask them about their policies regarding telephonic appearances. If you have an attorney, your attorney can take care of this. If your case ends up going to trial, you will need to come back to Arizona for the trial. If your case is resolved without going to trial, you probably won’t need to physically return to Arizona.
Will a criminal conviction affect my job?
It depends, but probably not.
This will of course depend on your job, but for the vast majority of people, the answer is no. We frequently represent clients who are required to undergo background checks as part of their job, or who hold security clearances, or who have professional licenses (like attorneys or doctors), and a criminal speed conviction probably won’t derail your career. However, a criminal speed conviction will likely require an explanation, and it is always ideal to avoid having to make that explanation.
For some jobs though, a criminal speed conviction is devastating. For example, for some commercial drivers such a violation could end their employment.
If you are concerned about how an excessive speed conviction could impact your job, you may want to review your company’s policies regarding criminal convictions and consult an attorney about your specific situation.
Will a criminal conviction affect my immigration status?
Maybe. We always advise our clients to consult with an immigration attorney to get a definitive answer to this question. Keep in mind though that criminal speed is not like assault, fraud, theft, burglary or any crime that involves a victim. Also, it does not involve alcohol, drugs or guns, all of which will create major problems for immigration.
Here is a post where we discuss potential immigration consequences with immigration attorney Jessica Cadavid.
Is criminal speeding a felony in Arizona?
No. It is a class 3 misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is far less serious than a felony.
Can you get arrested for speeding?
Yes, definitely. If you are driving more than 20 mph over the posted limit, you can be cited with an excessive speed ticket. This is a criminal ticket. So even though you may not be taken to jail, if you receive the ticket, you have technically been arrested.
Most criminal traffic tickets are “cite and release”, or “cite in lieu of detention”. This means that that the driver is issued a criminal complaint (ticket) and then released because they promise to appear in court on a future date.
Alternatively, depending on how fast you are going and the police officer’s mood, the officer may actually handcuff you, put you in the back of his vehicle, and book you into jail. We do see this happen from time to time.
Can I set aside or expunge an excessive speed conviction?
Arizona only permits expungement in limited circumstances. Excessive speed is not one of those circumstances.
The answer to “can you set aside a criminal speed conviction” is “there is a good chance you can.” See our page about setting aside convictions for more details.
Can I remove an excessive speed conviction from my record?
See our answer above about setting aside a criminal speed conviction. While you may be able to get the conviction set aside, you will not be able to get rid of the record of the case, and you cannot remove the violation from your MVD record, also known as your driver license motor vehicle record.
Do I need an attorney?
This is a question only you can answer, but here are some considerations.
An attorney can be very helpful if you live out of state and do not want to come back to Arizona because the attorney can often appear for you or arrange for you to appear by phone.
An attorney is familiar with the court process and the particular court you are dealing with. Courts of limited jurisdiction (the ones that handle traffic tickets) vary greatly in their procedures. We’ve appeared in over 90 courts all over Arizona, so odds are good we are familiar with the court handling your ticket, and that we’ve had experience with the prosecuting agency.
Based on our experience and talking with clients who have tried it on their own before hiring us, having an attorney can make a difference in the negotiation process. For most people, a criminal speed ticket is their first encounter with the criminal court system. An attorney does this every day. An attorney knows what information to ask for, and has experience looking for weak spots in the prosecution’s case. When you appear without an attorney, the prosecutor knows you don’t know what you’re doing, and they have little incentive to work with you. When you have an attorney, this changes the equation. An attorney is going to make the prosecutor do work (and they’re human, they don’t want to do more work). This changes the cost-benefit equation for the prosecutor. Maybe it will be easier for the prosecutor to offer a favorable plea rather than deal with a bunch of discovery requests and a trial.
We have even had a case of a defendant asking the court for defensive driving school for a criminal speed ticket, the court denying the request, then the defendant hired us and we made the very same request, and the court granted it. It stinks that this can happen, but sometimes having an attorney who knows the rules and can present your case well can make a big difference.
Can you guarantee an outcome?
The short answer is no, we cannot guarantee an outcome. Every case is different, and we cannot control how the prosecutor and judge will act. We often have a good idea about what the outcome will be based on the hundreds of cases we’ve handled, but sometimes even we are surprised by the outcome.
When discussing the outcome for your particular case, we can share what we have achieved in the past in similar cases. Considering criminal speed, racing, exhibition of speed, reckless driving and aggressive driving as typically similar and related charges, we have been able to avoid the criminal conviction in about 84% of the cases. This number has been surprisingly consistent, varying by only a percentage point or two in either direction over the years.
What information do you need to get started on my case?
We will want to know:
- What court is handling your ticket
- What is the alleged speed, and what was the posted speed?
- Do you have a clean driving history, or do you have prior tickets?
- What is your next court date?
- Your contact information (full name, phone number, email and address)
- We like to get a written narrative about what happened leading up to and during your traffic stop.
If you decide to hire us, then we will want:
- A copy of your driving history
- documents that reflect your good character (we’ll send you a list of things to collect). These documents can help set you apart from crowd and can make a big difference in the result we can achieve.
- There may be other information we want depending on the specifics of your case.
If you’d like our help, or if you have some questions about your case, give us a call or send us an email and we’re happy to discuss your case with you.