One of the most common traffic tickets is the classic California speeding ticket. Getting pulled over by a cop and being issued a ticket for speeding is definitely not a good feeling. Even having a close call can ruin your day. Nobody likes to see that radar gun pointed in your direction. When you get hit with a California speeding ticket, you feel like your rights have been violated because everybody else was speeding and you were the one who got caught. And why was that cop hiding behind a bush? Was that a speed trap? And didn’t he have anything better to do than write tickets all day? You start to wonder how much this is going to cost you to pay the ticket and worse yet, what effect it will have on your insurance rates. If you have a few tickets you start to worry about losing your license and if your employment involves driving, you may even be worried about losing your job. So when you get home you jump on google and do a search for how to beat a California speeding ticket. These days, a lot of people literally sign the ticket on the side of the road and then they start searching for a way out of it on their iphone before they even get back on the road. This is when my office phone rings and without a doubt, one of the questions I hear the most as a Los Angeles traffic ticket lawyer is “How do I get out of my ticket for speeding in California?”
Contrary to urban legend, there is no magical way to get out of a California speeding ticket. And if you think it’s a good idea to call your buddy who is a cop, or your neighbor the judge, or your sister in law the DA to have them make it disappear for you, they would be wise to think twice before pulling some strings for you. The law has been cracking down BIG TIME lately on people in the system that try to pull favors. It seems like every other day there are stories in the paper about cops, judges, and DA’s getting charged with crimes and losing their jobs for trying to help a friend or family member out with a traffic ticket. So what can you do to get out of that California speeding ticket?
The good news is that you can fight your ticket and you can win, you just have to do it the right way. If you want someone to do all the work for you and you want the best chance at beating a California speeding ticket or any other California traffic ticket for that matter, you should hire a lawyer with experience in your local traffic court. An experienced traffic ticket lawyer will know how to play the system to get you the best possible outcome. Would a trial by declaration be a good idea? Should you go to traffic school? How do you avoid the point if you are not eligible for traffic school? What happens if the cop shows up for trial? How is the judge in your local traffic court? Does he or she give a fair trial or a rubber stamp once the cop testifies? Is it possible to negotiate with the cop before trial to get the ticket ammended to a non-moving violation? A good lawyer will know the answers to these questions and handle the process for you.
On the other hand, if you can’t even afford to pay that California speeding ticket, then you definitely can’t afford to hire a good lawyer. With the exception of tickets in collections (a lawyer can usually save you a lot of money by getting away from the collection agency and back into court on those), hiring a lawyer will cost more than the price of the ticket. You don’t hire a lawyer to make the ticket cheaper, you hire a lawyer to give you the best chance at fixing the problem. Don’t get me wrong, you will save a ton of money by keeping your driving record clean and you may even save your job, but if you are looking at the price of the ticket alone and trying to find a way to make it cheaper, a lawyer isn’t the answer. If you go with some internet service that is promising you the moon for $75, or if you hire a discount attorney, you will probably end up just wasting your money and making a situation you can’t afford even worse. That’s another call I get all the time. “I hired so and so for $99 and they didn’t do anything for me. I got convicted and now I can’t afford to pay the ticket and my license is suspended”. So don’t buy into some marketing pitch that says you can beat a $300 ticket for $49.99 and operators are standing by. If money is tight, it could be time to do it yourself.
If you are going to handle your own ticket or if you just want to learn a little more about the law, here are some basics from the Vehicle Code on California Speeding tickets.
VC 22350-No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at speed that endangers the safety of persons or property.
VC 22405(a)-no person shall drive a vehicle on any bridge, elevated structure, tube, or tunnel constituting a part of a highway, at a speed which is greater than the maximum speed that can be maintained with safety to such structure
Note that if you are charged for speeding under these sections you may able to beat your speeding ticket even if you were going over the speed limit. For example, if you were going 40 in a 35, you could argue that it was a clear day, no other cars or pedestrians were around, and the road was wide and straight. The judge could believe the officers testimony that he got you on radar doing 40 in 35 but still find you NOT GUILTY because the speed was safe given the conditions. Many states have speeding laws that say if you were going over the posted speed limit, you are guilty of the crime. But in California, violations of VC 22350 require more than just a showing that you were going over the posted speed limit. Under 22351(a) evidence that you were going over the posted limit is enough to establish a prima facia case, but you can rebut that presumption and prove your innocence under VC 22351(b) .
VC 22406(a)-this is a speeding ticket for a commercial driver on the highway at 55MPH or greater. Please note that if you are a commercial driver you can not attend driving school to keep the point off your record. In addition, you receive 1.5 points for every 1 point violation. Getting a moving violation as a commercial driver can mean the loss of your job so it is essential that you fight your ticket for a dismissal or an ammendment to a non-moving violation. If you are a commercial driver facing a speeding ticket or any moving violation, contact my office immediately for a free consult.
VC 22349(a)-Except as provided in Secion 22356, no person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour.
VC 22349(b)-No person shall drive a vehicle upon a two lane undivided highway at a speed greater than 55 miles per hour unless that highway has been posted for a higher speed
VC 22356(b)-No person shall drive a vehicle upon that highway at a speed greater than 70 miles per hour, as posted
Note that if you are charged under these sections you can’t present the “basic speed law” defense. So if you see the number 22349 or 22356 in the middle of your California speeding ticket, don’t show up at trial and argue that you were going 72 miles per hour because it was safe under the conditions. This is true even if the cop wrote you up for 85. Testifying that you weren’t going 85 but only going 72 will not do you any good. You will be found guilty either way. If you are charged under 22349 or 22356 any speed over the posted limit is enough, regardless of the conditions or safety issues. If you are in this situation you need to argue that you were going under the posted limit, or better yet, argue that the cop has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were going OVER the posted speed limit. In this situation you are are often going to be faced with challenging the accuracy or a radar or lidar (laser) device, but that’s a subject for another blog post.
VC 22348-A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 100 miles per hour is guilty of an infraction.
Note that the penalties for speeding over 100 miles per hour are much more severe than a standard speeding ticket. The enhanced penalties include the loss of your license for up to the 30 days, two points on your driving record, and very large fines.
VC 23103(a)-Any person who drives any vehicle…in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving
Note we are now into misdemeanor offense territory. For a misdemeanor it is NOT a good idea to fight your own ticket. Get a lawyer, or if you can’t afford one, ask the court to appoint a public defender. You have a right to counsel under the 6th amendment of the constitution, use it! On this charge, the penalties go WAY beyond a regular speeding ticket. Reckless driving is punishable by up to 90 days in the county jail. Your car can also be impounded for up to 30 days, you receive two points on your driving record and a suspension of your license. Fines are of course included as well. There is no set speed where speeding becomes “reckless driving”, it is based on all the factors and circumstances. So doing 55 miles per hour in a school zone with children present will likely do it. So would taking a sharp turn at a high speed, weaving in and out of traffic, etc. Speed alone will generally not trigger this violation, but an officer could certainly make the argument.
VC 23104-this is reckless driving which causes an injury to someone other than yourself. Same as above, but it bumps the penalty to 6 months instead of 90 days. If the injury is serious, and you have prior convictions for reckless driving, drunk driving, engaging in a speed contest, or speed exhibition, you could even be facing a felony charge. Lawyer time.
VC 23109(a)-No person shall engage in any motor vehicle speed contest on a highway
VC 23109(c)-No person shall engage in any motor vehicle exhibition of speed on any highway
Note both speed contests and exhibitions are misdemeanor offenses so we are dealing with jail time, license suspensions, impounds etc. As such, this is lawyer time, find a good one, or ask the court to appoint you one at your first court appearance if you can’t afford to hire your own lawyer. At this point your aren’t really dealing with a California speeding ticket, you are dealing with a criminal charge. The good news is that these cases can be won or negotiated down by an experienced lawyer and an experienced lawyer will know the case law. There are a number of good appellate cases that can help you win on a charge like this and of course there is also litigation. A traffic lawyer with legal training and years of experience in the courtroom will probably do a better job of cross examining cops and negotiating with prosecutors than the average driver.