The penalties you'll face for a speeding violation vary depending on the circumstances. But in most cases, jail time isn't a possibility. Here's what you might expect to happen if you get a speeding ticket.
In most states, standard speeding violations (like all other minor traffic violations) are infractions or civil offenses. Infractions and civil offenses generally aren't considered crimes and can't lead to jail time.
The most common consequences of a speeding ticket are fines and demerit points being assessed to your driving record. (Traffic school is sometimes an option to avoid at least some of these consequences.) Generally, the amount of the fine and number of points depend on the driver's speed.
In a handful of states, such as Nevada and Arkansas, speeding and other traffic violations are misdemeanors. So, theoretically, a short jail sentence can result from a conviction. But under most circumstances, a judge isn't going to send a person to jail on a speeding ticket.
Fines for speeding tickets can get pretty expensive. But oftentimes, there are also additional fees and costs that can substantially increase the total amount you have to pay.
Generally, traffic violations have statutorily-based fines and penalties. In some states, traffic laws provide minimum and maximum penalties for violations. For instance, a stop sign ticket might carry a base fine of $20 to $100. Many states also have fine schedules, which list the specific fines—rather than a range—for traffic violations. (Fine schedules might also differ by city or county.) However, certain factors can increase the base fine amounts.
In some states, speeding fines are based on the amount by which the driver exceeds the speed limit. For example, a speeding fine in one of these states might be $35 plus $2 for each mile per hour over the limit. Other states set the fine amounts for different ranges. For instance, in Maryland, the fine for exceeding the speed limit by one to nine miles per hour is $80, ten to 19 miles per hour is $90, and so on. Points are generally set based on ranges. Like in Florida, exceeding the speed limit by up to 15 miles per hour is three points and more than 15 miles per hour is four points.
The base fine can also increase if the violation occurred in a certain area. Violations in work zones, school zones, and traffic control zones will often result in increased fines. Many states require that the standard fine be doubled if the violation occurs in one of these restricted safety zones.
In many states, a traffic violation that results in a collision, property damage, or injury will also result in increased fines and penalties. The enhanced penalties might involve increased fines, jail time, or license suspension.
In addition to the fines imposed, many states also impose various fees to cover administrative costs and the like. These added fees are often equal to or more than the fine imposed for a violation. So, even though the fine for a violation might not be all that much, the total amount the driver has to pay once the various fees are added in can be significantly more.
Although it isn't likely you'll end up in jail for a speeding ticket, it's possible if your case involved certain aggravating factors. Some of these same factors can also put license suspension on the table as a possible consequence.
Extreme speeds. In many states, exceeding a certain speed (like 100 miles per hour) or exceeding the speed limit by a certain amount can make a speeding violation a misdemeanor. If the driver is convicted of an extreme-speed offense, jail time is a possibility.
Reckless driving. "Reckless driving" is typically a misdemeanor and carries the potential of jail time. Specific definitions of the offense vary by state. But generally, a person can be convicted of recklessly operating a vehicle in a manner that's unreasonably dangerous. It's certainly possible for a speeding violation to fit the bill. For example, driving 100 miles per hour through a school zone could be considered reckless driving.
Failing to show up in court. When you get a speeding ticket, you have several options for dealing with it. Generally, you can just pay the ticket online, by mail, or in person or fight the ticket in court. But if you choose to ignore the ticket and the deadline passes, a judge might issue a warrant for your arrest. Of course, an arrest warrant can lead to spending at least some time in jail.
Repeat offenses. In some states, having multiple speeding violations within a short period of time can result in jail time. For example, in Ohio, a third speeding violation within a year carries up to 30 days in jail.
Depending on the circumstances, it might be a good idea to get in contact with a traffic attorney. An experienced traffic attorney can help you decide how best to handle your situation.