Picture this: You’re driving down the highway. Maybe you’re late to work, or in a hurry. Maybe your mind just wandered a little and you stopped paying attention to your speed. Whatever the reason, you see those blue lights flashing behind you. You just got a speeding ticket.
What do you do next? How much is this going to cost? Are there any options for avoiding the fine — or masking points from your license so your insurance costs don’t rise?
First, take a deep breath. Getting a speeding ticket can be stressful. But you have a lot of options for what to do next. Read on for a complete guide to everything you need to know about getting a speeding ticket in California.
Is a Speeding Ticket a Misdemeanor?
In most cases, a speeding ticket will be considered an infraction. This is the type of crime that most traffic violations are classified as.
An infraction for speeding will most often be written by the officer under VEH 22350 or 22350 VC. This is California’s basic speed law, which states:
No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.
However, it’s possible for speeding to lead to being charged with a more serious crime, like a misdemeanor. If you’re stopped for speeding and are going so fast the officer believes you are driving recklessly, you might be at risk for a misdemeanor ticket. And if you receive a speeding ticket and don’t pay your fine or appear in court by the deadline, you could be charged with a misdemeanor failure to appear.
Out-of-State Speeding Tickets
It’s an unfortunate fact that you’re more likely to get a speeding ticket if you drive above the speed limit outside of your home state — studies show that officers are less likely to let out-of-state drivers off with a warning.
If you receive an out-of-state speeding ticket, it’s important to take care of it. 47 states and Washington D.C. now belong to the Driver License Compact, which means information about your ticket will be sent back to the state in which your driver’s license was issued if you receive your ticket in any of those states. Whether you’ll receive points on your license depends on your home state’s rules and policies — in California, an out-of-state speeding ticket is very likely to result in at least one point on your license.
What Happens if You Don’t Pay an Out of State Speeding Ticket?
If you choose not to pay an out-of-state ticket, there are many potential consequences:
- A warrant for your arrest could be issued in the state where you received the ticket;
- The unpaid ticket could be reported to your home state’s DMV;
- The unpaid ticket could be reported to your auto insurance provider, preventing you from being able to insure your vehicle.
Choosing not to pay a speeding ticket is risky, and will almost always result in more consequences.
How to Fight an Out-of-State Speeding Ticket
If your biggest concern is points on your license in your home state, you might be able to attend traffic school in the state where you got the speeding ticket to mask a point.
It’s also possible to contest an out-of-state ticket. For that, you have three options:
- Return to the state in person to contest your ticket and appear in court.
- Contest your ticket by mail: Check “not guilty” on the back of the ticket and send it back with a return receipt request so you know that the court receives it. You’ll most likely receive a court date and be required to appear in-person back in the state, but you can also request a continuance to move the court date back and give yourself more time.
- Hire a lawyer in the state where you received the ticket. Then, your lawyer can appear in court on your behalf. However, paying a lawyer is likely to cost more than the ticket itself, so this option is typically not practical.
How Many Points Is a Speeding Ticket in California?
Most speeding tickets in California will result in one point on your license, with a few exceptions:
- If you are speeding over 100 mph, the first offense will result in 2 points.
- If you are convicted of speeding while driving under the influence, your license will be immediately suspending regardless of point history.
In California, drivers face having their license suspended or revoked if they:
- Receive 4 points within 1 year;
- Receive 6 points within 2 years;
- Receive 8 points within 3 years.
For minors, punishments are more severe. Drivers under 18 can have their license suspended or revoked if they:
- Receive 3 points within 1 year;
- Receive a traffic ticket and fail to pay the fine;
- Are convicted of a DUI involving any amount of alcohol or drugs.
How Much is a Speeding Ticket in California?
Speeding tickets in California are quite expensive, compared to most other states. Nationally, the average cost of a speeding ticket is about $150, but can vary quite a bit: Illinois and Virginia, for instance, have a maximum speeding ticket cost of $2,500, while in Tennessee, speeding tickets can only go up to $50.
Here’s what to expect for average base fines.
|MPH over the speed limit||Base fine||Construction zone fine|
|Between 1 and 15||$35||$70|
|Between 16 and 25||$70||$105|
|26 or more||$100||$135|
|Driving over 100 mph regardless of the speed limit||$200||n/a|
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that these are just the base fines. California has a complex system of state and county penalties and assessments that get added on to tickets, making it extremely difficult to estimate what a speeding ticket might cost. There have certainly been instances of a 15-mph ticket, with a base fine of just $35, costing up to $360 in total. For example, the cost of LA county traffic ticket averages $710 with a base fine of $35.
That means that, in reality, what you should expect to pay might look more like this:
|Fine/Assessment||1-15 mph over||16-25 mph over||26+ mph over|
|State penalty assessment ($10 for every $19 of base fine)||$30||$40||$60|
|County penalty assessment ($7 for every $10 of base fine)||$28||$49||$70|
|DNA Identification Fund penalty ($4 for every $10 of base fine)||$16||$28||$40|
|State court construction penalty ($5 for every $10 of base fine)||$20||$35||$50|
|Emergency medical services fee ($2 for every $10 of base fine)||$8||$14||$20|
|EMAT services fine||$4||$4||$4|
|Court operations fee||$40||$40||$40|
|Criminal conviction fee||$35||$35||$35|
|Night court fee||$1||$1||$1|
|State surcharge (20% of base fine)||$7||$14||$20|
Keep in mind that these are just averages and estimates, and actual speeding ticket costs can be even higher than this table shows.
How Much Does Insurance Increase After a Speeding Ticket in California?
Another cost that many people don’t consider about their speeding tickets is the increase in their insurance rates.
A study by Nerdwallet found that the average 40-year-old driver will see a 42 percent increase in their annual car insurance premiums after a single speeding ticket. That study found that the true cost of a speeding ticket averages 33 times more than the cost of the ticket itself.
According to Nerdwallet, a speeding ticket with a base fine of $35 could ultimately have a total cost of $1,184 — up to $490 in fines, penalties, fees, and assessments to the state of California, plus $694 a year in additional insurance premiums.
How Long Does a Speeding Ticket Stay on Your Record?
In California, a speeding ticket remains on your record for three years. That means the point on your license from that speeding ticket can be used against you for three years.
After three years, the point from a regular speeding ticket can no longer be used against you. And after three years and three months, you can request for the DMV to remove the ticket from your record altogether.
Points for more severe offenses, like reckless driving or speeding while under the influence, will remain on your record for 10 years.
Can You Get a Speeding Ticket Dismissed in California?
It’s possible to get a speeding ticket dismissed, but it will take some organization, work, and possibly a little bit of luck.
How to Fight a Speeding Ticket in California?
The best way to fight a speeding ticket in California is by proving that you weren’t actually speeding. This can be difficult to do — you’ll need evidence and/or witnesses that can help convince a judge to decide in your favor.
Typically, you’ll go to trial and present your evidence to a judge. If the officer who issued your speeding ticket doesn’t appear for your court date, the ticket may get dismissed right away. Otherwise, the judge will review your evidence and the officer’s and make a decision.
You might be able to avoid going to court by completing a Request for Trial by Written Declaration, to which you’ll attach written statements from you and your witnesses. The judge can then either make a decision based on the documents included, or reject your argument. If your argument is rejected, you can request an in-person court date.
The Speed Trap Defense
If your speeding ticket was the result of a radar gun, you may be able to fight it using the speed trap defense. This defense requires a lot of work but it can be a strong defense against a speeding ticket.
Help! I Got a Ticket offers a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for using the speed trap defense to fight a speeding ticket.
Is it Worth it to Fight a Speeding Ticket in California?
The short answer to this question is: It depends.
This is a personal question. If you were not actually speeding and you have proof to back that up, then it’s probably worth it to fight your speeding ticket.
But if you were actually speeding, and you’re only hoping to fight the ticket to avoid paying for it, you may end up spending time, resources, and more money on your defense, only to have the judge rule against you and end up required to pay the ticket anyway.
Luckily, in California, there’s an easier way to help avoid some of the consequences of a speeding ticket.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in California?
One of the best ways to stay alert and safeguard yourself from speeding tickets is by employing a radar detector.
These devices can alert you ahead of time of radar guns and allow you to adjust your speed accordingly. Learn more about the legality of radar detectors in California and get a few recommendations for the top radar detectors on the market.
Does Traffic School Erase a Speeding Ticket in California?
If you’ve received an infraction for speeding going 25 mph or less over the speed limit, resulting in one point on your license, you can generally go to traffic school to mask that point. And even if you received a speeding ticket for going more than 25 mph over the speed limit, you might be able to ask a judge to allow you to attend traffic school.
Traffic school doesn’t “erase” the ticket. You’ll still have to pay all the fines, fees, and penalties. But completing traffic school and masking a point on your license can help you save money in the long run, since it might keep your insurance rates from rising.
If you choose to go to traffic school, make sure you sign up with a DMV-licensed online traffic school. There are three types of traffic schools – online, classroom, and home book-based courses.
Online traffic school is a convenient, affordable option that allows you to complete a course from home on your own time. Best Online Traffic School offers an online course that’s accepted in every court in the state of California, that’s easy, affordable, and fun. The best part is that you can take the course and the final exam, and you don’t have to pay for it until you pass and are ready to submit your certificate to the DMV. We’re also one of the only traffic schools in the state to provide the course in English, Chinese, and Spanish with free audio narration.
Dealing with a speeding ticket can be stressful, but traffic school doesn’t have to be. See how fast and easy it can be with Best Online Traffic School.