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ARS-28-701-02 Arizona’s Criminal Speeding Law

Nearly every driver gets at least one or two speeding tickets over their lifetime, and some receive many more. It’s common to lose track of your vehicle’s speed, miss a change in the speed limit as you enter a business or residential area of the roadway, or purposefully exceed the speed limit because you’re running late for work or an appointment. In most cases, when a driver’s caught speeding by a law enforcement officer, the result is a speeding ticket, points against a driver’s license, and a sense of remorse or regret for receiving an expensive fine. But in Arizona, some speeders may find themselves facing more than an aggravating ticket. When does speeding cross the line into criminal speeding in Arizona?

Man speeding in Arizona.

What is Criminal Speeding in Arizona?

Getting a speeding ticket is typically a civil matter. In almost no other state does speeding ever cross the line into a criminal offense except in cases of drunk driving. However, Arizona has criminal speeding laws in place that often give an unpleasant shock to visitors traveling through the Grand Canyon State. A criminal speeding citation is not your typical speeding ticket and penalties are far more severe. In some circumstances, speeding in Arizona becomes a crime under the state legislature’s statute ARS-28-701-02. Paying a simple fine is not enough to overcome this type of criminal charge.

When Does Speeding Become a Crime in Arizona?

Exceeding the posted speed limit becomes a crime in the state of Arizona under specific circumstances including the following:

  • Exceeding 35mph in a school zone
  • Exceeding the speed limit by more than 20mph in a business or residential area or driving over 45 mph in a business or residential area without a posted speed limit
  • Traveling at 86mph or more on any roadway in Arizona

Arizona law enforcement may issue a ticket to drivers in any of the above situations. By examining the traffic citation, drivers discover they are facing a criminal charge rather than merely a civil citation and fine. This charge requires a hearing date and possible criminal penalties.

What Kind of Crime is Speeding in Arizona?

Exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 miles per hour is the most common way both Arizona residents and visitors to the state find themselves facing a criminal charge, but speeding in school zones and residential areas also results in charges. While not to be taken lightly, this charge isn’t a felony, nor among the most serious misdemeanor offenses. Criminal speeding is a class-3 misdemeanor crime in Arizona.

Common Examples of Actions in Arizona That Result in Criminal Speeding Charges

There are several common situations in which drivers may face a criminal speeding charge. These include:

  • Driving at 56 mph in a 55mph zone and failing to notice that they’re entering a residential or business area with a 35mph speed limit. This results in speeding in excess of 20mph over the posted speed limit and a criminal speeding violation if an officer pulls them over
  • Traveling at 66mph or more in a 45mph zone
  • Traveling 76mph or more in a 55 mph zone
  • A driver is distracted and doesn’t realize they’ve entered a school zone. If they are traveling over 35mph, an officer can charge them with criminal speeding

In many cases, Arizona drivers are driving along with traffic in the left lane on a busy intersection and find a law enforcement officer ready to catch those exceeding the speed limit by more than 20mph. Even if you were not the only driver speeding, you might be the one they choose to pull over and charge with a misdemeanor crime.

Penalties for Criminal Speeding in Arizona

A criminal speeding ticket is a serious matter. A conviction means a permanent criminal record for a misdemeanor crime. A first-time conviction for criminal speeding in Arizona may result in one or more of the following penalties:

  • A $500.00 fine (plus an 80 dollar surcharge) 
  • 3 points on your driver’s license
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Up to a year of probation
  • Community service

Jail time for a first offense of misdemeanor criminal speeding is rare. If an Arizona judge imposes jail time for a first offender in a criminal speeding case, it’s typically in conjunction with more egregious charges such as a DUI, reckless driving, road rage, or drag racing. Repeat offenders in criminal speeding cases may be sentenced to jail time in some cases.

Drivers with more than eight points on their license may face mandatory traffic school or a suspended Arizona driver’s license.

There are other consequences of a conviction for criminal speeding that alleged offenders must consider. For instance, the suspension of a commercial driver’s license for truck and bus drivers, the possible loss of secret security clearance for federal employees, a permanent, non-expungable criminal record, and a substantial increase in car insurance premiums.

Common Defenses to Arizona’s ARS-28-701-02 Criminal Speeding Charges

A criminal defense attorney in Arizona may defend a client against a conviction using one of several strategies, including showing that an error occurred during the officer’s reading of a speed-tracking device. In some instances, highlighting the margin of error in these devices may be enough if the speed at which they measured your vehicle traveling is only one or two mph over the limit crossing into criminal charges. Your attorney may also argue the facts of the case, for instance demonstrating that you were not in a business or residentially zoned area when the speeding occurred.

In some cases, a skilled attorney can reduce the charges from a criminal offense to a simple civil offense, or a standard speeding ticket. Your attorney might also succeed in having the charges dropped to a civil offense if you agree to attend traffic school. Unfortunately, this is only a viable option if you haven’t attended traffic school during the past year for another traffic violation. Judges do not allow commercial drivers to reduce their criminal speeding charge to a civil offense by attending traffic school. They will also deny this request if the criminal speeding charge is in conjunction with other criminal charges such as a DUI or reckless driving. In the event of a DUI, a Phoenix DUI lawyer can help navigate your legal case.

If you’ve been charged with criminal speeding in Arizona, it’s important to schedule a consultation with a Phoenix criminal defense attorney as soon as possible for the best possible outcome in your case.