Answer: yes, you can go to jail for excessive speeding, though jail time for speeding is not common unless the speeding is extreme (or something else happens, like a wreck).
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can You Go To Jail For Excessive Speeding? (Discussion)
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Jail vs Non-Jail Offenses
People who are unfamiliar with the justice system may not realize that speeding tickets are not actually considered “criminal offenses.”
Instead, they are usually considered “civil” offenses.
This is the case even though the police are involved in giving out the ticket and involved in the process of prosecuting the ticket to resolution.
Jail is not an option in civil cases, but it is an option in criminal cases.
Many states have laws that make going over 100 mph a misdemeanor crime, regardless of whether that’s 20 mph over the speed limit or 50 mph over the limit.
Other states have laws that apply when the driver has gone 20, 30, or even 40 mph over the limit.
In any case, the factual circumstance of driving 40 mph over the speed limit, whether you are driving over 100 mph or not, would likely support a criminal charge of Reckless or Careless driving.
In some states, these could be a more serious traffic ticket (no jail).
In other states, these could mean a low level criminal charge (such as a misdemeanor), where a defendant could face a maximum penalty of jail time and a fine.
The case gets worse for the defendant if other people were in/on the vehicle, such as children.
Other potential charges for extreme speed include: Reckless Endangerment, Criminal Mischief, Disorderly Conduct, Speed Racing, Exhibition of Speed, and more.
Depending on the circumstances (like if the speeding involved an argument or domestic dispute), the behavior could support a felony (such as attempted assault, kidnapping, and coercion).
If the speeding involves a wreck, physical injury of another individual, or property damage, the speeding could also be charged as a different crime.
In general, jail is not guaranteed if you go over 40 mph.
But if the circumstances support additional criminal charges, or the state you are in prosecutes speeding aggressively, jail is a possibility.
Why Does Someone Get Sentenced To Jail?
In all states, misdemeanor and felony crimes are all punishable by some level of jail time, though the maximum penalty varies from state to state.
While jail is a possibility in almost every misdemeanor and felony case, whether the defendant actually goes to jail is much more nuanced.
Offenders do not go to jail automatically for breaking the law every single time.
Instead, during sentencing process, many factors are considered, such as:
- how bad the crime was
- how badly anyone was hurt
- how much property was damaged
- whether self-defense was involved
- whether the offender is prepared to pay for damages
- whether this is a first offense
- the most recent previous criminal conviction, and how many previous convictions there are
- whether the offender is remorseful
- whether jail will cause the offender to lose his job or place in school
- whether the offender is prepared to enter substance abuse treatment
- the mental and physical health of the defendant
The judge will make the decision as to whether jail is appropriate in the circumstances, or whether the offender would be better suited to performing community service or other service under the eye of the jail, such as trash clean up/road crew.
The parties (prosecutor and defense) may even negotiate a sentence that seems appropriate and jointly recommend it to the court for consideration.
If you have been charged with crimes, or you are worried that you will be, conferring with an attorney early on is recommended.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need a lawyer or be able to afford a retained lawyer in your case, early consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your state could prevent you from making your case worse and give you guidance about what to do next.
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