California Speeding Laws

Basic Speeding Law: No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and surface and width of, the highway. In no event, shall a speed such as to endanger the safety of persons or property.  Cal. Veh. Code § 22350

Penalty for Exceeding Speed Limit

A first time violator may be:

  • fined not more than $100, and
  • the violator’s license may be suspended not more than 30 days.

Penalty for Reckless Driving

A first time violator may be:

  • fined between $145 and  $1,000,
  • sentenced to jail time of between 5-90 days, and
  • the violator’s license may be suspended not more than one year.

Defenses to Speeding

There are two basic types of defenses to a speeding charge under the Basic Speed Law. One type—the technical defense—is that the police used impermissible methods to catch you. The other—the substantive defense—is that the police were wrong in their conclusions.

Exceeding Maximum Speed Limits in California (55 to 70 mph)

The “maximum speed limit‚” used to mean that you could drive at 65 mph on roads for which the speed is not legally defined or posted. These days, however, the law is a little less clear. It is a violation of the California Maximum Speed Law to do any of the following:

  • drive over 70 mph on a freeway posted for that speed limit
  • drive over 65 mph on a freeway (not posted at 70 mph) or on any other highway, or
  • drive over 55 mph on a two-lane undivided highway (even if the speed limit isn‚’t posted), unless the road is posted for a higher speed limit.

Basic Speed Law Defenses Are Not Available for Maximum Speed Limit Law

Under this statute, the prosecution need only prove you were going faster than 65 mph, or 70 mph if posted on certain freeways in rural areas, or that you exceeded 55 mph and there was only one lane in each direction with no median or barrier. The relative safety of your speed under the circumstances is beside the point and the so-called "basic speed law" defense cannot be used. Common radar defenses will often be of no use under the maximum speed law.

Speed Limits

  • 65 MPH (except as noted below)
  • 55 MPH on two lane undivided highway
  • 35 MPH (prima facie limit) on non-State highways located in moderate density residential districts within the Town of Apple Valley
  • 25 MPH (prima facie limit) in a business or residence district
  • 25 MPH near a children's playground
  • 15 MPH on any alley 

Point System

A person is presumed to be negligent driver if they accumulate either 4 or more points in 12 months, 6 or more points in 24 months, or 8 or more points in 36 months. Such a driver can have their driving privileges suspended for not more than 6 months.  However, they may obtain restricted driving privileges for use during the scope of their employment.   Cal. Veh. Code §§ 12809, 12810, 12810.5. Learn more about the point system in California.

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