a.k.a. Excessive Speed
What is Criminal Speeding?
There are 3 ways to get a criminal speeding ticket in Arizona:
- Exceed 35 mph in a school zone (28-701.02A1).
- Exceed the posted speed limit in a business or residential district by more than 20 mph (28-701.02A2).
- Exceed the posted speed limit by more than 20 mph in other locations (A.R.S. 28-701.02A3).
See A.R.S. 28-701.02(A) for the specific language of the law.
What Are The Penalties For A Criminal Speed Conviction?
These are the consequences that are possible under the law:
- Fines up to $500 plus surcharges and court assessments that could nearly double the total fine
- Up to 30 days in jail. Jail time is rare, but it does happen. We most often see jail in city courts like Scottsdale City Court.
- Up to 1 year probation
For the majority of people, if they are found guilty the consequences include:
- Class 3 misdemeanor conviction.
- Fines in the $300-$600 range
- 3 points on Arizona driving record (and Arizona reports the conviction to other states)
How do we fight a criminal speeding ticket?
We take a two-pronged approach to every case.
We thoroughly investigate the facts and details for legal issues. We are looking for information that we can use to cast a reasonable doubt on the allegations.
- Is the speed measurement defective?
- Did the officer lose visual contact?
- Do the allegations meet the statutory requirements?
- Is what the officer is claiming even possible?
We also present our clients and their background in the best possible light. Even when there is no legal argument, often our client’s good background and driving history can be enough to negotiate the desired outcome.
- Clean driving record
- History of community service
- School or employment history
- Immigration Status
- Other mitigating details
Need Help With an Excessive Speed Ticket?
Give us a call and let’s talk. We’re full of information, and we don’t charge you to discuss your case. We want every driver to get the best outcome possible in their case. Often, we can help achieve that outcome. Sometimes, a driver doesn’t need an attorney, and we’ll tell you that too.
What Are The Possible Outcomes In An Excessive Speed Case?
Dismissal After Taking Defensive Driving School
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.
Dismissal for Other Reasons
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.
Reduction to a Civil Speeding Violation
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, we look for errors in the speed measurement, 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, and 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.
Pleading Guilty to the Charge
If after a thorough investigation, we are unable to uncover 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.
Found Guilty or Not Guilty After 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 risky 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.
Loves kicking @$$ in court.
Looks forward to doing discovery.
Our Promise To Our Clients
Get the best outcome possible.
Most of our clients have never been charged with a crime before. We understand receiving a criminal speeding ticket can feel scary, confusing, and the unfamiliar process is intimidating.
While we often accomplish our clients’ goals, whether that be defensive driving school or getting a charge reduced, we cannot guarantee a particular outcome.
What we can guarantee is that by the time your case is concluded, you will know that we have done everything possible to secure the best result possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get a criminal speeding 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 does a criminal speeding case take?
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 do 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 speed 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.
In another post, 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 in Arizona?
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?
Are speeding tickets a scam?
Maybe. Yes, you may have been speeding, but were you being unsafe? Probably not. The reality is speeding tickets are often a revenue generation tool for police departments and local governments. This is especially true of photo enforcement tickets.
Speeding tickets constitute low-hanging fruit for police and are generally what we describe as victimless crimes; driving 5 mph over the speed limit almost never harms anyone. In other words, issuing speeding tickets is a lot easier than solving real crimes involving a victim (like assault or shoplifting). Issuing speeding tickets also carries the extra benefit of generating income whereas catching criminals results in a net financial drain on the police department and government.
If catching dangerous drivers to protect the public was really the goal of issuing speeding tickets, the police would not use so many tricks to catch speeders. If you have to “trick” a person into breaking the law, that person probably is not doing anything wrong in the first place. One popular trick most drivers have experienced is the posting of several speed limit signs over a short distance, all with different speeds. This trick can be very effective because it is easy to miss a sudden speed limit drop when the road is the same and nothing has changed. The police officer simply sits past the speed limit sign with the reduced speed and picks off unwitting drivers. You probably have also noticed that police do not lie in wait in areas where drivers are naturally alert, such as a stretch of the highway where a lot of traffic is entering or exiting. Instead, the police officer will hide on a deserted stretch of highway where the driver may not be as focused because there are few hazards or changes to the road.
Downhill speed traps are also popular with traffic police. Often, a driver can exceed the speed limit by simply coasting down the hill. You will notice that photo radar devices are often placed just after a drop in the speed limit, despite no change to road conditions, or that they are placed on roads where the speed limits seem artificially low for the road conditions. It has been documented that the timing of the traffic lights where red light cameras are placed has been changed to slightly shorten the yellow light in order to maximize red light violations.
From Our Clients
We work hard to achieve the best outcome possible in every case, and it shows in our reviews:
How Do Police Measure Speed?
This page discusses the various methods police use to measure speed – visual estimate, LIDAR, RADAR, and pace.
What Is An Arraignment?
The court date on an excessive speed ticket is an arraignment date. This page discusses the purpose of the arraignment and what to expect.