Do You Know How Fast You Were Driving?

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Recently, I blogged about limitations on a judge’s authority to enter a disposition of prayer for judgment continued in speeding cases depending upon the speeding charge. (You can read that post here.) The recent discussion regarding judgments in speeding cases begs the question of why specific speeds are part of the adjudication in the first place.

A person can violate the speed restrictions that apply on North Carolina roads in one of three ways: (1) by driving at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under existing conditions ; (2) by exceeding maximum speed limits; or (3) by operating a vehicle at less than a minimum posted speed. See G.S. 20-141. Generally speaking, speeding is an infraction — a noncriminal violation of the law — punishable by a penalty of not more than $100. Driving on a highway at a speed of more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit or over 80 miles per hour, however, is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days imprisonment, depending upon the person’s prior record level.

A plain reading of the statute reveals that charges involving the second variety of speeding (which is commonly referred to as exceeding the posted speed, though there is no requirement that the speed be posted unless it is higher or lower than the presumptive 35 mph inside municipal corporate limits or 55 mph outside municipal corporate limits) require only a determination of whether the person drove a vehicle on a highway in excess of the maximum speed limit by driving more than 15 mph or by driving more than 80 mph, in which case the person committed a misdemeanor criminal offense. Otherwise, the offense is an infraction.

But in many speeding cases involving charges of exceeding the maximum speed, both the charges and the determination of the person’s responsibility (in the case of an infraction) or guilt (in the case of a misdemeanor) is far more precise. The citation issued to a defendant often, but not always, specifies the rate of speed (and, indeed, may even specify the rate of speed registered by radar, which can be different from the speed “charged” on the citation). And, as noted in my earlier post, those charges may be changed by the district attorney before the case proceeds to trial. When a defendant pleads guilty to a speeding charge in which the specific speed is alleged, the defendant pleads not just to speeding but to driving a specific speed in a specific speed zone. In a bench trial in district court, the judge may find the defendant not responsible or not guilty of the charged offense or responsible or guilty of the charged offense or a lesser included offense. The infraction of exceeding the maximum speed is a lesser included offense of the misdemeanor. In addition, unless the speeding charged is speeding more than 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, a violation of G.S. 20-123.2, which prohibits driving a motor vehicle on a highway without a working speedometer, is a lesser included offense of speeding.

If a defendant is found guilty or responsible in district court for a violation of G.S. 20-141, the judge may find the defendant guilty or responsible not only for speeding but also for driving a particular speed, which, again, is a determination that may have collateral licensure and insurance consequences. The same holds true for the jury in superior court.

A judge may enter a prayer for judgment continued in a speeding case, subject to the limitations mentioned in the earlier post. The entry of a prayer for judgment prevents the conviction from being considered by DMV for license points and revocation purposes (until the third or subsequent prayer for judgment continued in a five-year period) and from resulting in the accumulation of points under North Carolina’s Safe Driver Incentive Plan.

It also bears mentioning that many speeding violations are waivable offenses. The Conference of Chief District Court Judges promulgates annually a list of traffic offenses for which magistrates and clerks of court may accept written appearances, waivers of trial, and pleas of guilty or admissions of responsibility. The traffic offense waiver list effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2008, is available here. Speeding is a waivable offense so long as the speed driven does not exceed 80 mph and is not more than 15 mph over the speed limit if the speed driven is over 55 mph. A person originally cited for a nonwaivable speeding offense may, upon the district attorney’s reduction of those charges to a waivable charge, dispose of those charges by waiving appearance and trial and pleading guilty or responsible to the magistrate or clerk and paying the applicable fine and costs.

12 comments on “Do You Know How Fast You Were Driving?

  1. i grew up in north carolina but now posess a florida drivers license.while visiting north carolina recently i received a speeding ticket for doing 80 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone.there is a factory recall on my vehicle for faulty guage cluster to include speedometer.all this can be documented.i could use some legal advice as to what my options are if anyone who might see this blog could be so kind as to help me.i have a mandatory court appearance but the officer couldnt tell me what my fine was and took great delight in informing me the judge could take my florida license if he wanted to.thanks for any feedback.GO HEELS.P.S. WATCH YOUR SPEED IN BRUNSWICK COUNTY NORTH CAROLINA BETWEEN WILMINGTON AND CALABASH OR YOU WILL END UP MAKING A CAR PAYMENT ON ONE OF THOSE MANY NEW SHINY DODGE CHARGER CHASE CARS THAT BELONG TO THE SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT.I GUESS PROGRESS DOES HAVE A PRICE AND ITS BEING PAID IN FULL AT A HANDSOME PROFIT BY THE SAME HARD WORKING PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS GREAT COUNTRY WHAT IT IS.MAYBE ONE DAY WE CAN TURN THE TABLES AND FORCE THESE BANDITS TO GET A REAL JOB.

  2. i am navy sailor who was heading home from deployment to see my family, i was unaware that i had exceeded the speed limit(88mile) till the officer told me. i have a summons to appear in court. i would like some advise as to what will transpire when i appear in court. email:

    • I just sent a reply/question to your post concerning speeding ticket in NC. My 22 yr old daughter is in the same situation. What was your outcome? Any advise for my daughter?

  3. My daughter received a NC ticket for 90 in a 65. How does one get in touch with district attorney in hopes that it can be reduced from non-waiveable to waiveable so that she can pay fine and not go to court? Is this the best plan of action? She is 19, from SC and has no prior violations. Thank you. Please send response to my email also.

    • i was pulled over going 90 in a 65 today in NC, i live in NJ and was dropping my sister off at college. Were you able to any info on how to just pay a fine and not have to go to court because its a 7 hour drive for me an i would have to take 2 days off of work. Any help would be much appreciated.

      • I’d like to know,too. I live in MD and got a ticket yesterday ,heading home thru Wilmington and he clocked me @88 in 70. Did you ever find out if its possible to pay without appearing? The trooper told me that I have to appear because its a class 2 misdemeanor. Or I can get a lawyer to represent me. Represent me in my absence, or in my presence? Please help, I’m freaking out :(

  4. I recieved a speeding ticket from a mp who stated he clocked me doing 71 in a 45, not the speed limit had just changed from 55 to 45. Anyways he sayed he cloecked me in doing 71 in a 45 about a mile outside of post, now there is no way I could have been going that fast I had just entereed the freeway to get on to post and it is about a mile to post. Can a mp write me a ticket out side of ft. Bragg

  5. A cop gave me a ticket for 100 in a 65 he did not have me on radar Or anything I had my cruise control set at 74 and when he pulled me over I showed him that on my dash He Sid he was pacing me but he was never behind me my daughter called him a liar and that made him mad


  6. Hello,

    I live in North Carolina. I am 26 years old. I got a citation today for driving 83 mph in a 65 mph zone. This is my first time being stopped for speeding. However in February 2013 I did receive a failure to yield right of way. That case was dismissed though. Will that still have an effect on my case for speeding? Is it possible to get the nonwaivable misdemeanor reduced to a waivable?

  7. I just received a speeding ticket in NC going 91 in a 70 on the highway. The State trooper said it was a mandatory court appearance and there was no fine information included on the ticket. I need some advise on this, I have received a ticket in almost 10 yrs and that one was in another state. Is there anyway I can just hire a lawyer and not need to appear?

  8. Hey Bri,
    Did you get you case solved. I got ticket at I-77 for going 87mph at 65mph. What was the hearing from the court? Will it be a misdemeanor or reckless driving?


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