There are three basic types of speed limits systems in the United States: absolute, presumed, and basic. For absolute speed limits, it is against the law to drive above an absolute speed limit at any time and for any reason. A basic speed limit means that drivers should drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent at all times. This means sometimes driving slower than the posted speed limit.

In comparison, a “presumed speed limit” means that there is a “presumption” that it is not safer to drive faster than the posted speed limit. You may be accused of driving at an unsafe speed depending on the conditions at the time you received a ticket.

Basically, in states that use a presumed speed limit, such as California and Texas, it is generally legal to drive reasonably over the posted speed limit as long as you are driving safely.

For instance, if you are driving 60 mph in a 55 mph zone, you may be “presumed” to be speeding. If the circumstances are that everyone is going the same speed, and it would actually be dangerous to drive slower, then it might be possible to convince the judge that you were being safe in those conditions. This isn’t absolute in every case, but it’s a common defense.

A presumed speed limit can also go the other way against a driver. If you were driving at the posted speed limit but the conditions caused even that speed to be dangerous, then you could still be ticketed. An example of this is where there is heavy fog or other bad weather conditions. 

Therefore, the presumed speed limit system takes into account the conditions at the time you were driving. For this reason, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and conditions while operating a vehicle.

What are the Penalties for Speeding Violations?

Penalties for speeding violations will depend on many factors. Most speeding violations may result in some fines and other consequences such as mandatory completion of traffic school. Other speeding violations may result in more serious penalties such as jail time. Penalties for speeding violations may depend on factors such as:

  • The speed the driver was traveling at during the time they were cited;
  • The posted speed limit;
  • Whether the speed limit laws in that area involved absolute, basic, or presumed speed limits;
  • Whether the area was a residential area;
  • Whether there were many pedestrians closeby;
  • Whether it was a school zone or some other type of area that requires careful driving;
  • Driving conditions, such as weather and time of day (especially for presumed speed limit areas;
  • Whether the person was deemed to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time; and
  • Whether the person had a history of speeding or was a repeat offender.

These factors may make a basic speeding violation more serious and can increase the penalties or consequences involved. 

Are There Any Defenses to Presumed Speed Limit Violations?

If you have been charged with the violation of exceeding a presumed speed limit, then it may be possible to counter by showing you did not exceed the posted speed limit. You can also defend your speed by showing that you were driving safely, given the conditions. However, higher rates of speed will be more difficult to show you were driving safely, than say, if you were going 5 mph over the posted limit.

As with any other violation, other defenses may apply. For instance, it may be a defense if you can prove that you were forced to drive at such speeds under the threat of violence or harm (for example, if you were held at gunpoint and told to drive at a certain speed). 

What Should I Do If I Believe I Have Not Broken the Law?

If you feel that you aren’t at fault for a presumed speed limit infraction, then you should speak with an attorney. You may also return to where the infraction took place on a day with similar conditions, and take pictures for additional evidence. You will want to diagram the whole scene by showing where you were, where other cars were, and where the officer was located at the time of the citation.

If there were any witnesses, try to get their statements as well. Any evidence that you can gather to show you were driving safely will be beneficial for your case.

Most importantly, be sure to show up to your traffic court hearing. It is important to appear at your hearing and present the evidence in court before the judge. There may often a chance that the officer who gave you the ticket won’t appear. If that’s the case then there is also a chance that the judge will throw out your ticket.

Either way, it’s important for you to collect evidence in support of your claim, and be present at your hearing if you believe that you did not violate the speed limit.

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with Presumed Speed Limit Laws?

If you have been charged with a presumed speed limit violation, a local traffic violation lawyer can advise you of your rights and help build your case. They can also help determine your best course of action with the court.