Normally, speeding is a non-criminal traffic infraction that carries only a fine and possibly demerit points being assessed to your driving record. However, in certain circumstances, a speeding violation can be a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense. With criminal speeding convictions, the driver might face jail time and license suspension in addition to the fines.
Driving 100 miles per hour or more generally isn’t a felony—unless someone is seriously injured or killed—but can lead to hefty fines and possible license suspension and jail time.
In some states, all traffic violations are misdemeanors and considered minor criminal offenses. But the majority of states classify most traffic violations—including standard speeding violations—as infractions or civil offenses. Infractions and civil offenses aren’t crimes and don’t carry the possibility of jail time.
The penalties for speeding violations (the amount of the fine and number of demerit points) typically depend on the driver’s speed in relation to the speed limit.
In some states, for example, a speeding violation fine might be $25 plus $2 for each mile per hour over the speed limit. In other states, fines are set based on speed ranges. For instance, the fine might be $45 for one to five miles per hour over the limit, $65 for six to ten miles per hour over the limit, and so on.
With point amounts, it’s typically based on speed ranges. So, for exceeding the limit by just a small amount, the points will generally be less than for a violation involving a speed that’s well above the speed limit.
Based on the normal penalty systems, being caught driving 100 miles per hour or more will likely result in a big fine and a substantial number of demerit points going on your driving record.
However, the laws in a handful of states specifically provide different penalties for offenses involving speeds of at least 100 miles per hour. These states, which include California and Oregon, set higher fine amounts for 100-mile-per-hour violations. Also, the driver faces mandatory or possible (depending on the circumstance) license suspension.
In a few states, the driver’s speed alone can make a speeding violation (which is normally an infraction) a misdemeanor offense. For example, in North Carolina, a speeding violation is a class C misdemeanor if the driver exceeds a speed limit by more than 15 miles per hour or drives faster than 80 miles per hour.
Another factor that can make speeding a misdemeanor is injuries. In some states, drivers who injure someone else while violating a traffic law (including speeding) can face misdemeanor charges.
Generally, speed alone isn’t going to make a speeding violation a felony. However, it’s possible for a speeding ticket to lead to felony charges if the offense involved injuries or fatalities.
In most states, reckless driving is defined as willfully or knowingly operating a vehicle in a manner that involves a disregard for the safety of persons or property (or in some like fashion). So, if a driver is speeding in a way that puts other people or property at risk of harm (for example, excessive speeding near pedestrians), reckless driving charges are a possibility.
In some states, driving a certain speed is per se reckless driving. For instance, in New Hampshire, driving 100 miles per hour or faster is considered reckless driving. And in other states, like Virginia, a driver can be charged with reckless driving for exceeding the speed limit by a certain amount.
Reckless driving is normally a misdemeanor but can be a felony in some circumstances. In Nevada, for example, reckless driving is a felony if the offense involved the serious bodily harm or death of another person.
If a speeding violation leads to the death of another person, vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges are a possibility. Depending on the circumstances, vehicular homicide or manslaughter can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
Every situation is different. So, if you’re facing a speeding ticket or a criminal charge, it might be worth talking to a traffic or criminal attorney who can help you out. An experienced attorney can explain your options and assist you in deciding how best to handle your case.