Speeding a few miles per hour over the speed limit might get you a speeding ticket and a fine. But excessive speeding is a different matter. Depending on your speed and where you were caught, you could face harsh penalties, including incarceration.
Significantly, Florida’s speeding laws set up multiple levels of punishment and even overlap with the state’s reckless driving laws. This setup gives prosecutors a lot of flexibility in seeking to punish speeders but can put you in a difficult spot trying to figure out what laws you broke and how to defend yourself.
When you drive more than 50 miles per hour (MPH) over the posted speed limit or more than 100 MPH, regardless of the posted speed limit, you risk getting charged with a felony. A prosecutor can elevate excessive speeding to a felony charge if you are a repeat offender.
The first time you get convicted for going more than 50 MPH over the speed limit, you will pay an excessive speeding fine of $1,000. A second conviction will cost you $2,500 in fines, and your license will be revoked for a year.
On a third offense, prosecutors can charge you with a third-degree felony. The sentence after a conviction for a third offense can include up to 5 years in prison, up to 5 years of probation, up to $5,000 in fines, and license revocation of up to 10 years.
Excessive speeding can also get charged as a felony for first-time offenders. This happens when your case meets both of the following conditions:
First, you need to get charged under the state’s reckless driving statute. Drivers violate this statute when they drive with willful and wanton disregard for life or property. Florida law includes explicitly driving more than 50 MPH over the posted speed limit as an “additional offense” under the reckless driving law.
Florida does not have a specific statute to allow reckless driving charges when you drive over 100 MPH. But Florida courts have allowed prosecutors to charge drivers with reckless driving for “grossly excessive speed.”
If you were going 100 MPH on the road with a 60 MPH speed limit, you exceeded the speed limit by less than the 50 MPH needed to trigger the “additional offenses” in the reckless driving law. But prosecutors could still charge you with reckless driving based on the danger of your overall speed.
Second, you must have caused an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury. Usually, reckless driving is a misdemeanor. But when you crash your vehicle while speeding more than 50 MPH over the speed limit, prosecutors can elevate the charges to a third-degree felony. The crash must injure someone so severely that they suffer:
Suppose you caused an accident while speeding over 50 MPH over the limit. You hit a car and shattered the other driver’s leg. If the driver suffered a permanent disability from the injury, you might face felony reckless driving charges for your speeding.
The penalties for a third-degree felony can include up to 5 years in prison, five years of probation, and up to $5,000 in fines.
Florida treats certain traffic offenses as criminal cases rather than minor infractions. If you speed between 1 and 29 MPH over the speed limit, you never need to see the inside of a courtroom or talk to a judge. Instead, you can pay a fine or attend a traffic class to take care of your ticket.
You must appear in court for a mandatory hearing if you speed 30 MPH or more over the posted speed limit. Florida’s laws do not explain the purpose of this hearing. But under the U.S. Constitution, you must have a hearing if the punishment for a crime includes the possibility of imprisonment.
Prosecutors do not automatically charge you with a misdemeanor if you speed 30 MPH or more over the posted limit. But the law allows them to elevate these cases to a misdemeanor and seek imprisonment by charging you with reckless driving.
As previously mentioned, reckless driving happens when you drive with willful and wanton disregard for life or property. Depending on the circumstances of your case, prosecutors can meet this burden.
For example, suppose you were cited for speeding at least 30 MPH over the limit in a school zone, toll plaza, or construction zone. In that case, prosecutors could use the presence of children or workers to show a reckless disregard for life or property.
Upon a conviction for speeding at least 30 MPH over the limit, your fine starts at $250. The judge could double this fine if you were speeding in a school or work zone.
If you also get convicted of reckless driving, you face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $25 to $500. On a repeat offense for reckless driving, the sentence can include up to 6 months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
You can speed even if you never exceed the speed limit. This ticket type gets issued when you drive too fast for the driving conditions.
Under certain conditions, Florida law expects you to temper your speed. Florida’s speeding laws give several situations where you can drive too fast for the conditions:
These offenses leave a lot of discretion to the police. The police must judge what speed was too fast and whether the conditions warranted a slower speed.
The most common conditions that could get you a too-fast-for-conditions ticket include wet or sandy roads, strong wind, rain, and heavy traffic.
The penalty for a too-fast-for-conditions ticket depends on how fast you are going. A judge can impose a fine of up to $250. But you will not be imprisoned unless you also get hit with reckless driving charges.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) provides three driving history reports: 3-year, 7-year, and complete. These records will only show FLHSMV actions that took place within the time frame covered by the report.
For example, if your license was suspended five years ago and reinstated four years ago, the records would show up on a complete or 7-year report but not on the 3-year report.
Insurance companies usually only check the 3-year history. But some companies check the 7-year history or even the complete history. An insurer is more likely to check the longer histories if your 3-year history shows a pattern of driving problems.
When an insurer, prospective employer, or police officer looks at your driving record, they will see the following:
Different actions stay on your record for different amounts of time, including:
The FLHSMV automatically purges entries after the time has passed without requiring you to request removal.
FLHSMV can suspend your driver’s license for speeding over maximum limits. This suspension can happen in 2 ways.
First, drivers who receive multiple excessive speeding tickets have their licenses suspended automatically by the judge upon a conviction. A second offense gets you a 1-year suspension, and a third conviction gets you a 10-year suspension.
Second, FLHSMV adds points to your driving record for each traffic violation. A single speeding ticket will not give you enough points for a driver’s license suspension. But multiple speeding tickets or a speeding ticket combined with other tickets could result in a driver’s license suspension.
FLHSMV has three levels of license suspensions:
Speeding will earn you 3 points. Excessive speeding will earn you 4 points. Consequently, it would only take 3 to 4 speeding tickets within a year to have your license suspended.
Speeding tickets are considered infractions. For a conviction, the judge only needs proof that you were speeding, and the law does not require the police or prosecutors to prove that you intended to speed.
But a lack of intent can help you get a speeding ticket dismissed. If, for example, the speed limit changed in an area, but there was no posted sign, you might get your ticket dismissed. Similarly, a judge might dismiss a speeding ticket if your car malfunctioned and you could not slow down.
Reckless driving charges require willful and wanton conduct, which could give you an opening to overcome these severe charges. Willful and wanton means that you either knew of the danger and proceeded despite it or willfully blinded yourself to the threat.
In Florida, speeding, by itself, might not exhibit willful and wanton conduct. Judges often require prosecutors to show something else, like speeding in a school zone, unsafe lane changes, or tailgating, to establish the necessary intent for reckless driving.
The defenses you can raise to a speeding ticket typically only apply in particular circumstances. If you face severe consequences for a speeding conviction, you should speak to a defense lawyer about your legal options.
The Denson Firm can help you address serious speeding charges, among other practice areas. Depending on your case, you could face hefty fines and even imprisonment for a speeding conviction.
Having a defense lawyer by your side could help persuade prosecutors to dismiss or reduce the charges. A lawyer can also present your defense and convince a judge or jury to acquit you.
Contact The Denson Firm to discuss your charges and the defense you can present with an experienced traffic ticket lawyer.
© 2024 The Denson Firm. All rights reserved.