Arizona has three types of speeding laws: a "basic speeding law," "prima facie limits," and "absolute speed limits." This article explains the differences between the three and the consequences of a speeding violation.
Arizona's basic speeding law prohibits driving at a speed "reasonable and prudent under the circumstances, conditions and actual and potential hazards then existing." In other words, motorists must always drive at a safe speed. What a safe speed is will depend on the circumstances. For instance, 55 miles per hour might be safe on a bright, sunny day. But if it's dark and the road is wet, going 55 miles per hour could be dangerous and a violation of the basic speeding law.
Arizona also uses prima facie speed limits (sometimes called "presumed" limits). Driving faster than a presumed limit creates a presumption that you've violated the basic speeding law. But exceeding a prima facie limit doesn't necessarily equate to guilt. You still have the opportunity to prove in court that your speed was safe. If you're able to do so, the judge is supposed to find you not guilty.
Unless otherwise posted, Arizona's prima facie speed limits include:
There is no trick to how Arizona's absolute speed limits work: If the absolute speed limit is 50 miles per hour and you drive faster than that, you've violated the law. Unless otherwise posted, Arizona's absolute speed limits prohibit motorists from driving faster than:
The consequences of a speeding violation depend on the circumstances. But a driver caught speeding is generally guilty of a civil traffic violation and looking at $150 to $500 in fines and fees. The exact amount typically depends on factors like speed, the county where the violation occurred, and whether there was an accident. And fines are typically doubled for speeding violations committed in construction zones.
However, a speeding violation is a class 3 misdemeanor—a more serious offense—if the driver exceeded:
Class 3 misdemeanors are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a maximum $500 in fines.
Depending on the circumstances, speeding could lead to a "reckless driving" conviction. Arizona defines reckless driving as operating a vehicle "in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property." A standard first offense carries up to four months in jail and a maximum $750 in fines.
And if a speeding violation results in the death of another person, vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges are possible.
Typically, a speeding violation will add three points to a motorist's driving record. Accumulating too many points can lead to license suspension.