You Got Caught Speeding Well Over The Limit. Now What?

Caught at 100 MPH

Basketball phenom LeBron James has one. As does actor Matt Dillon. So, famously, does politician Al Gore's son. You may think it's a Bentley, Benz or the latest celebrity accoutrement, but we're not talking about that. All of these celebrities (celebrated individuals) have a speeding ticket for allegedly driving above 100 mph. As the three drivers were cited in three different states, they all face varying combinations of penalty fines, court fees and possible license suspensions. But even if a prospective fine won't hit LeBron's oversized pocketbook too hard, it often adds up to a pretty penny for the average motorist once an insurance adjustment – or policy cancellation – is taken into account. What does it mean to get caught going triple digits? We take a look.

When You Hear About It
Maybe you were driving too fast on a straight section of freeway and heard that ominous siren that means a hefty speeding fine is on the way. Maybe you were opening your mail over a cup of morning coffee and noticed a letter with a funny-looking city insignia on it. Or maybe you were watching TV when you noticed a police car pulling up outside, then heard a knock on the door. However the police got to you – and it varies by the state you live in – you've now been cited for driving above 100 mph.

Likely Police Method
Vince Ramirez of the California Highway Patrol says a 100 mph-plus driver may be caught either by radar or by cruiser (known as a "bumper piece"). He says: "Upon a stop, the officer will issue a citation and then it goes to county, where a court determines the fine. He says most offenders are caught on "the outskirts of big cities, high desert areas or rural populations." Arizona is the only state with a permanent freeway camera system, while others – including Florida – enforce by aircraft.

Know Your Rights
When you've been pulled over, most attorneys will advise you to not admit guilt, as it may complicate challenging a ticket later. Likely a police officer will ask you how fast you thought you were going, but you are under no obligation to answer. Be polite and do not challenge the ticket right there, as it may annoy the officer, undermining your case. Do not offer a bribe, which is a felony offense. There's nothing to stop you from requesting a warning, but when stopped for going 100+ it's not likely you'll get it.

Varying Ticket Penalties
Penalties vary across states and jurisdictions. In California, for example, a first offender likely will face a fine not exceeding $500, two points on a license and possible jail time. The infraction becomes a misdemeanor if the police can prove a driver was reckless. In Virginia it's a fine of up to $2,500 and mandatory jail time. Some states like Florida and New York use a sliding scale for speeds up to 50 mph over the limit. Many, including Oregon, enforce mandatory license suspensions.

Reckless Driving?
Whether an infraction becomes a reckless driving offense depends on road conditions, how you were driving, the officer serving your ticket and the state in which you received it. Factors would include making unsafe lane changes or having a passenger in your car (even more so if it's a child). Reckless driving is usually a misdemeanor criminal offense. In Florida, a third offense for driving 50 mph over the limit is a felony. In Virginia, driving above 85 mph is considered reckless.

What About Insurance?
Raleigh Floyd at Allstate says a citation "typically won't affect the insurance situation unless it involved a crash." In terms of a policy cancellation or increase, Floyd says it's impossible to determine as "more than 1,000 factors that go into it, including age, past driving record and where you drive." He says that the offense will appear on DMV records and will be noted for new customers or a policy renewal. His advice? "Slow down for your own safety. You'll also save on gas."

Do you need a lawyer?
David Haenel, at Florida's, says a lawyer's job is to "explain the legal defense fully and make sure the officer can prove the case beyond reasonable doubt, to the same standard as a criminal case." He will check that the police radar has been properly calibrated and that citation records written up in a patrol car or aircraft match those on the ticket. More often than not, a driver's financial situation will dictate whether they hire a lawyer.

Repeat offenders
Most states will escalate punishment when a second offense has occurred within a given time period -- often five years. In most states, license suspension becomes mandatory and jail time also lengthens. In the case of a third offense, jail time could be mandatory. Officer Ramirez of the CHP confirms that these offenses are known as "significant abuses" and could merit jail time. Advice? If possible avoid getting one in first place. And if you get a second or third, look out!

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