Criminal Speeding Tickets in Arizona

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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, we can help.


WHAT IS CRIMINAL SPEED?

A person shall not:

1. exceed 35 mph in a school zone

2. exceed the posted speed limit in a business 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 locations.

A.R.S. 28-701.02(A)

THE CONSEQUENCES

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 on their driving record in Arizona.

Jail time is unlikely.

Jail is rare in excessive speed cases, but it does happen. We most often see jail time come up in the city courts, like Scottsdale City Court.

Theoretically, the following maximum consequences are possible under the law:

  • Class 3 misdemeanor conviction.
  • Fines up to $500 plus surcharges and court assessments that could nearly double the total fine.
  • Up to 30 days in jail.
  • Up to 1 year probation.
  • 3 points on Arizona driving record.

THE POSSIBLE OUTCOMES

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.

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.

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.

If after a thorough investigation, we are unable to any information to refute the State’s allegations, it may make sense to plead to the charge rather than spend the time and resources to go through a trial we will almost certainly lose, and where the consequences will be left to the judge rather than agreed upon in advance. 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.

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 on how to proceed.

The outcome at a trial is either a guilty or a not-guilty judgment. If the judge finds the defendant guilty, then the judge gets to decide the sentence. This can be risking in some courts where a judge may be inclined to impose harsher penalties than what might be agreed upon in a plea agreement.

If the judge finds the defendant not-guilty, then that’s excellent! The defendant has no criminal conviction, no fines, no points, and gets to walk away with a clean background.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

No. It is a class 3 misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is far less serious than a felony.

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.

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.


HOW CAN WE HELP?

We can be very helpful if you live out of the state and do not want to come back to Arizona. Our attorneys can often appear for you or arrange for you to appear by phone.

We are 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 have appeared in over 140 courts all over Arizona. Odds are good that we are familiar with the court handling your ticket and that we’ve had experience with the prosecuting agency.

Here’s what happens when you hire us:

1. We take the lead and make a plan.

Our practice focusses on criminal traffic tickets. We are experienced with the courts and the prosecutors. You can rely on our team to take the load off your shoulders and do the heavy lifting.

2. We investigate, negotiate and litigate.

We thoroughly investigate every case. We look for any problems with the prosecution’s case, together with your good background, that we can leverage for an improved outcome. We are always prepared to proceed to trial too.

3. We achieve the best outcome possible.

We leave no road unexplored in your case. When your case comes to a conclusion, you can walk away knowing your attorney did everything to get you the best outcome that was possible.


Email us below for a free case evaluation


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