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Caught At 100 mph, Now What?

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Basketball phenom LeBron James has one. So does actor Matt Dillon. Politician Al Gore’s son has one as well.

No, we’re not talking about a Bentley, Benz, or even a Prius. Neither are we talking about the latest celebrity accoutrement. Each of those famous individuals has received a citation for allegedly driving at a speed exceeding 100 miles per hour.

Each driver was cited in a different state, so each will face a different combination of penalty fines, court fees, and possible license suspensions. However, even if a prospective fine wouldn’t put a dent in the sizeable wallet of LeBron James, it typically adds up to quite a bit for the average motorist after an insurance adjustment or policy cancellation is taken into account.

What does it mean if you are caught driving at a triple-digit speed?

When you hear about it

Maybe you were driving too fast along a straight section of freeway before hearing the ominous siren signifying that you’re about to receive a hefty speeding fine. Maybe you were having a morning cup of coffee and opening your mail when you noticed a letter with a city insignia on it. Or maybe you were simply watching television when a police car pulled into your driveway and you heard a knock at the door.

No matter which method the police get to you, which varies state-by-state, you’ve been given a citation for driving over 100 miles per hour.

Likely police method

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Vince Ramirez, a driver exceeding 100 mph could either be caught by radar or cruiser (referred to as a “bumper piece”). He said that once the officer stops the driver and issues the citation, it will go to county where the fine is determined by the court. He says that the majority of offenders tend to be caught on the outskirts of big cities, high desert areas, or rural populations. 

Arizona is the lone state with a permanent freeway camera system. Other states, such as Florida, enforce by aircraft.

Know your rights

Most attorneys will advise you to never admit guilty after being pulled over, as it could make challenging a ticket complicated. An officer will likely ask you how fast you thought you were going, but you are not obligated to answer the question. Be polite and do not challenge the ticket right there, as annoying the officer can undermine your case. 

Never, ever offer a bribe. That is a felony offense. You could try to ask to be let off with a warning, but it’s not likely to happen if you’re caught at 100 mph or over.

Varying ticket penalties

Penalties will vary between states and jurisdictions. For example: in Virginia the penalty is a fine of up to $2,500 and a mandatory jail sentence. In contrast, a first time offender in California will likely not face a fine of more than $500, two points on a license, and possible jail time, but if the police can prove a driver was reckless, the infraction becomes a misdemeanor.

In some states, such as Florida and New York, there is a sliding scale for speeds up to 50 mph above the limit. Many states, such as Oregon, enforce mandatory license suspensions.

Reckless driving?

Whether an infraction becomes a charge of reckless driving is dependant upon road conditions, how you were driving, the officer issuing the citation, and the state in which you received the citation. Factors include if you were spotted changing lanes in an unsafe manner or if you had a passenger (especially if the passenger is a child) in your vehicle.

Reckless driving is typically a misdemeanor criminal offense. In Florida, a third offense of driving 50 mph above the speed limit is a felony. In Virginia, exceeding 85 mph is considered reckless. 

The numbers

In a case study a few years ago in Oregon of 100 mph citations, it was determined that 79 percent of the citations were issued to male drivers, 81 percent of the citations were issued on freeways, 19 percent were issued on secondary state highways, the highest percentage age group for male drivers was 20-24 (34 percent) and 15-19 was second (21 percent), 51 percent of citations were issued to drivers between the ages of 15-24, 464 people were cited in 2005, and more than 2,600 drivers were cited between 2000 and 2004.

What about insurance?

According to Raleigh Floyd of Allstate, a citation will not usually have an effect on insurance unless a crash is involved. In terms of a policy cancellation or increase, Floyd says it's impossible to determine as “more than 1,000 factors that go into it, including age, past driving record and where you drive.”

Floyd said that the offense appears on DMV records and is noted for new customers or policy renewals.

Personally, Floyd advises slowing down “for your own safety. You’ll also save on gas.”

Do you need a lawyer?

An attorney’s job is to fully explain the legal defense and ensure that the officer is able to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, to the same standard as a criminal case.”

The attorney will check that a police radar has been properly calibrated and that citation records match those on the ticket.

A driver’s financial situation will typically dictate whether or not they hire an attorney.

Repeat offenders

The majority of states will escalate punishment upon a second offense within a given time period (usually five years). Most states will have a mandatory license suspension and lengthened jail time to punish repeat offenses. A third offense could mean mandatory jail time.

Of course, the best advice is to avoid receiving a citation in the first place, if possible. And if you get a second or third, look out!

Bob Battle
100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts
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