Criminal vs. Civil Speeding Tickets in Arizona

Posted On February 8, 2021 Arizona Laws,Criminal Defense by John Allen Phebus

Speeding is one of the most common traffic infractions in Arizona. It is also a frequent cause of auto accidents. Every year, police officers in the State of Arizona give out thousands of speeding tickets. There is a big difference, however, between civil and criminal speeding tickets in Arizona. One will result in a monetary fine, while the other could lead to much more severe penalties – including jail time.

What Is Criminal Speeding?

The state’s definition of criminal speeding is found in Arizona Revised Statute 28-701.02. This law states that the following actions committed by a driver meet the definition of excessive speeding, leading to a class 3 misdemeanor:

  1. Exceeding 35 miles per hour in a school zone or approaching a school crossing.
  2. Exceeding the posted speed limit by more than 20 miles per hour in a residential or business district or exceeding 45 miles per hour if there is no posted speed limit.
  3. Exceeding 85 miles per hour in all other locations.

A driver speeding in these ways is a crime in Arizona, not just a moving violation. This means the driver could face criminal charges rather than only a traffic ticket. Other forms of speeding, such as only exceeding the posted speed limit by just 5 to 10 miles per hour, will only result in a civil speeding ticket in Arizona.

Speeding and failure to obey traffic laws can also result in a serious car crash. Data from Insurify states that about 11% of drivers nationwide have at least one speeding ticket in their record. Virginia, Iowa and Ohio rank as the top 3 states with the highest percentage of drivers with a speeding ticket. Every day about 112,000 drivers are issued a speeding ticket, and almost 41 million speeding tickets are issued in the U.S. each year. A study conducted by the NHTSA showed that 8 out of 10 young drivers admitted to speeding in the last month.

Difference Between Criminal and Civil Speeding Tickets

A criminal speeding ticket will lead to a criminal case against the driver. The driver may have to go to court with a defense attorney to try to achieve a positive case outcome, or else negotiate a pre-trial plea deal. A jury will listen to the prosecutor and the defendant’s side of the case, then decide if the evidence is enough to prove the driver guilty of criminal speeding beyond a reasonable doubt. If so, the driver will receive a criminal conviction and a sentence from a judge.

A simple speeding ticket, on the other hand, does not bring with it criminal charges. A civil speeding ticket is only a moving violation, not a crime. Rather than facing the possibility of a criminal trial, conviction and sentence, a driver that receives a civil speeding ticket in Arizona will only need to pay a fine and potentially attend traffic school as punishment.

Penalties for a Speeding Criminal Ticket

Typically, a civil speeding ticket will only result in a fine and points against the driver’s license. The amount of this fine will vary based on the circumstances. Both a civil and a criminal speeding ticket in Arizona will result in three points added to the driver’s license. This will only impact the license if the driver has already accumulated points from other infractions. If a driver receives eight or more points within one year, he or she will face license suspension.

If a driver receives a criminal speeding conviction in Arizona, however, the penalties can include:

  • Increased insurance premiums
  • A permanent criminal record
  • A suspended or revoked driver’s license
  • Fines of up to $500, plus significant surcharges
  • 30 days to 6 months in jail

Jail time is only a possibility for a criminal speeding ticket in Arizona if the driver is a repeat traffic offender or if the speeding incident was particularly egregious. For example, traveling 60 miles per hour in a school zone could be a severe enough wrongdoing to lead to jail time. For most drivers, however, the most severe penalties for a speeding crime are a misdemeanor, fine, and points on his or her license.

If you have received a criminal speeding ticket in Arizona, discuss your legal options with a defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you protect your rights.