How to Fight a Speeding Ticket in Arizona
Receiving a speeding ticket or any other traffic violations can be frustrating, embarrassing, and financially burdening. The impact on a driving record can have ripple effects on driving record, employment opportunities, and insurance. If you have recently received a speeding ticket in Phoenix or anywhere in Arizona, you are not alone. If you decide to fight a traffic violation, a lawyer can help you protect your driving record and your future. This article will explore how to fight a traffic ticket and your options to potentially prevent speeding ticket points on your license.
How Can You Get a Criminal Speeding Ticket in Arizona?
Can you go to jail for a speeding ticket? Potentially, yes. The penalties for a criminal speeding ticket in Arizona include up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, up to one year of probation, and three points on your driving record. There are three scenarios where you can be given a criminal speeding ticket in Arizona:
- A.R.S. § 28-701.02a1 - Exceeding thirty-five miles per hour approaching a school crossing
- A.R.S. § 28-701.02a2 - Exceeding the posted speed limit in a business or residential district by more than twenty miles per hour, or if no speed limit is posted, exceed forty-five miles per hour
- A.R.S. § 28-701.02a3 - Exceeding the posted speed limit by more than twenty miles per hour in any location.
Of these, the last one is the most common, and often accompanied by charges for aggressive driving, DUI, or reckless driving. It is very easy for drivers to exceed 20 MPH in rural parts of Arizona, where there are long stretches of road with light traffic. However, not all speeding tickets for driving over 20 miles per hour will result in a criminal speeding ticket. A driver may be charged with A.R.S. § 28-701A - Exceeding reasonable and prudent speed.
If you receive a criminal speeding ticket, you are not automatically eligible to attend traffic school for a speeding ticket. Defensive Driving School “may” be allowed, at the court’s discretion.
Penalties for a Speeding Ticket in Arizona
How much is a speeding ticket? Fine fees for speeding tickets vary depending on how fast you were going (over the speed limit). If you wish to not appear in court, and not pay for Defensive Driving School (more on that below), paying the fine in full on or before your scheduled appearance date is necessary.
If you are charged with criminal speeding (A.R.S. § 28-701.02A1 thru 3, you must see a judge.
Of course, you have the option to attend defensive driving school (only once every 12 months from violation date to violation date). It is always advisable to review your options as soon as possible after receiving a speeding ticket - not the night before. If you choose to attend an Arizona Certified Defensive Driving School, you must complete this seven days prior to your court date. Speeding tickets do not go away, even if you are licensed to drive and live in another state.
How Many Points Is a Speeding Ticket?
Nearly all states use a “points system” for driver's licenses. When drivers commit certain offenses, they receive points. Accumulate enough speeding ticket points on a license or points for other moving violations, and the Department of Motor Vehicles may take action. Arizona will report violations out of state, so if you live in another state but receive a speeding ticket in Arizona, your state will likely receive word from the State of Arizona.
If you accumulate 8 or more points in a 12-month period, you will need to attend Traffic Survival School (TSS), or you may have driving privileges suspended for up to 12 months. Traffic Survival School is distinct and separate from Defensive Driving School
What to Do When You Get a Speeding Ticket in Phoenix?
If you are in the “I got a speeding ticket - now what” club, you are in the right place. Here are seven things to do if you receive a speeding ticket:
1. Remain Calm
Even if you do not agree with the officer, do not argue. Remain calm, and be respectful. You are entitled to dispute or fight a speeding ticket in Arizona. However, attempting to fight your ticket on the side of the road is a poor strategy.
2. Sign the Paper Copy of the Ticket
If you refuse to sign the ticket, the officer could arrest you, and eventually you will probably be asked by a judge why you did not cooperate. Signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt.
3. Check Your Contact Information
Arizona’s driver's licenses have the longest possible renewal period in the country - so it is common for drivers to be driving around with driver’s licenses that have an old address. If your contact information is not correct, notify the officer issuing the ticket.
4. Make Sure You Know How to Handle the Citation
Whether your ticket is a civil traffic ticket or a criminal one, it will not go away on its own. You will have a few options of how to respond to your speeding ticket, but avoiding your ticket should not be an option.
5. Read the Instructions on Paying a Speeding Ticket
As soon as possible - once you’re out of your vehicle - read the instructions on your speeding ticket. Review when you would have to appear in court if that is what you choose to do.
6. Know Your Options
It’s important to initially review all of your options to handle your speeding ticket - and not procrastinate making a decision. Your options may include attending traffic school, hiring a lawyer to fight the ticket (and possibly get it dismissed), appearing in court, or paying the infraction.
7. Wait for Your Insurance Company to Find Out
When it comes time to renew your insurance policy, your insurance company will likely check your record. If you disputed the ticket and lost, or you simply paid the fine, you will have points on your record. Too many violations (traffic tickets or at-fault accidents), and your rates could go up due to the insurance company’s perceiving you to be a higher risk policyholder, or your policy could be “non-renewed.
What Happens When You Get a Speeding Ticket?
When you are issued a speeding ticket, you have no choice but to respond to it, whether you choose to fight a speeding ticket or not. “Doing nothing” is also an option - but it is an option with no good outcomes and should not be considered. If you do not pay or respond to a civil traffic citation, the court that was handling your matter will report your failure to appear to the MVD and request that your license be suspended and remain suspended until the penalty is paid in full. If you are pulled over for driving with a suspended license you may be arrested.
You have three options for responding to a speeding ticket (guilty, no-contest, and not guilty). You also have three possible paths of action (plead guilty and not appear in court), appear in court but represent yourself, or hire an attorney to represent you.
The easiest course of action (in the short term) is to plead guilty. This can be done online by simply paying the fine for your citation. The consequences of pleading guilty should be considered because it can put points on your record, increase your insurance premiums, and impact employment prospects in the future. The cumulative effect of any future traffic violations should also be considered. If you have points on your record already, or have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or have intentions to acquire one, you should absolutely contact a lawyer before pleading guilty.
Plead No-Contest ("Nolo Contendere")
A “No-Contest” plea simply tells the court that you don’t want to contest the charges. Although you are NOT pleading guilty, you are telling the court directly that you do not deny the charges but also do not want to challenge, fight, or dispute charges. This can be an option if you believe you will be facing a civil suit for something related to the traffic ticket, and do not want to admit guilt. However, you will receive the functional equivalent of a guilty plea, and still have to pay fines and penalties.
Plead Not Guilty
If you plead not guilty, you are telling the court you want an opportunity to respond to the charges. You are exercising your right against self-incrimination by entering a not guilty plea for a speeding ticket. You can represent yourself, or hire a lawyer to represent you. If the verdict is unfavorable to you, you may want to consider filing an appeal. If you are willing to plead to lesser charges, your Arizona traffic lawyer can help you get your serious charges lowered to less serious ones. Also, if your ticket is violation or crime-related, you will want a lawyer to prevent it from ruining your clean record.
How to Fight a Speeding Ticket in Arizona: Defenses and Strategies
Fighting speeding tickets often starts with taking a big picture look at your speeding ticket event and looking for ways you can bring in mitigating evidence or raise common defenses. Consider yourself as the driver, the vehicle, the officer, the road, and other drivers. Did the officer have it all wrong? Were you speeding, but with good reason? Was there no speed limit sign? Think about the whole narrative of the event, like you were describing the sequence of events to someone else unfamiliar with the event. If you are wondering how to dispute a speeding ticket, below are some points to consider:
Look for Citation Errors
Look for errors in the speeding ticket. Law enforcement officers issue a lot of citations and sometimes they get details wrong. If you can identify errors, it may be enough for a judge to simply dismiss your ticket. Although minor typos won’t have an impact, errors or inaccuracies that may be relevant may include:
- The time and date of the speeding ticket
- The street name, intersection, or highway name
- The published/posted legal speed limit
- Your vehicle make and model
- Officer’s description of events / written summary.
What’s Your Reason for Speeding?
Is there more to the story? If your speeding ticket was issued while you were trying to escape someone that tried to physically harm you, this is absolutely worth bringing up. Medical and personal emergencies are also worth noting. Being late for work or “having no idea” of the posted speed limit are not valid reasons for violating the speed limit.
How fast you were actually traveling is a critical part of a speeding ticket case. If this is strongly disputed, your case will be weakened. Speedometer calibration is a common basis for getting a speeding ticket reduced or dismissed altogether. A lawyer can review the facts of your case and advise if it is worthwhile to visit a “speedo shop” for a calibration. Results may be admissible in court.
Radar Gun Calibration
If a law enforcement officer determines your speed from a radar gun, they are required to follow certain steps to ensure accuracy. The radar gun must be checked before each shift to confirm it is working properly. It must also have been calibrated within the last six months. The officer is required to bring proof of this to court. A lawyer can request proof of the radar gun calibration. Failure to comply with requirements may be grounds for dismissal.
Defensive Driving School
Defensive driving school will be an option if this is your first ticket within a 12-month lookback period. The judge may require it in other cases, and it may be helpful to complete it proactively before your court date. Having completed defensive driving school may be one additional tool in your toolbox to get a case dismissed.
In criminal speeding ticket cases, completing community service can be helpful in getting a traffic violation reduced. A judge may require you to complete at least 24 hours of community service with a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. It may be beneficial to your case to proactively complete this service. Avoid serving at schools or churches, or organizations you are already involved in.
And of course, be sure to document your service: Get written acknowledgment from the supervisor or manager of the non-profit on letterhead - detailing when you worked and what you did.
Question the Officer’s Testimony
You will hear the officer’s testimony when you get pulled over - and also in court (if they show up). It can be helpful to take a voice memo after your ticket is issued recalling exactly what they said. You will have an opportunity to give an account in court and address their testimony.
Letter of Apology
On a case-by-case basis, a sincere and genuine letter of apology can be effective. You will want to provide a narrative of events so that the judge can understand the “big picture” that we mentioned earlier. You can address one or multiple defenses in your letter, and also lay out the lessons you have learned and your earnest intention to not speed again.
Should I Get a Lawyer for a Speeding Ticket?
It may be worthwhile to get a lawyer for a speeding ticket - and may not be as expensive as you think. Experienced traffic ticket lawyers can make strong legal arguments and know what to look for. You have a better chance of a reduced charge, or getting your ticket reduced altogether, when you have a lawyer representing you. It is always worth considering a lawyer for a speeding ticket, and very often worth hiring one. Contact the Law Offices of Brandon White to discuss your potential case today.
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