California Vehicle Code 22356 (b) VC states that no motorist shall drive on a freeway at a speed greater than 70 miles per hour.
There are five important points to know about speeding on California’s freeways.
- There are legal defenses to fight a speeding charge; and, a person accused of speeding can hire an attorney to contest a speeding ticket.
- The fine for a violation of Vehicle Code 22356 (b) VC can range from $35.00 to more than $500.00, plus court costs and assessments.
- A driver caught speeding over 70 miles per hour will receive one point on his DMV record. You risk getting a negligent operator license suspension if you get 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months.
- Drivers cannot ignore California speeding tickets. This act will likely result in a charge of failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508, which can be charged as a misdemeanor.
- The 70 miles per hour speed limit is an absolute speed limit. California has additional absolute speed limits, “prima facie” speed limits, and a basic speeding law (link to basic speeding law article).
In the article below, our California personal injury attorneys will address:
- 1. Is it illegal to drive over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway?
- 2. Are there legal defenses if accused of speeding on a California freeway?
- 3. What are the penalties if I violate Vehicle Code 22356 VC?
- 4. Do I have to attend traffic school if I drive over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway?
- 5. Is it a crime if I violate Vehicle Code 22356?
- 6. What happens if I ignore a speeding ticket?
- 7. What is the effect of a speeding violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
- 8. Are there laws related to VC 22356?
1. Is it illegal to drive over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway?
Section 22356 of California’s Vehicle Code permits the California Department of Transportation to increase the speed limit on the State’s highways from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour.1
According to Vehicle Code Section 22356 (b):
No person shall drive a vehicle upon that highway at a speed greater than 70 miles per hour, as posted.2
The 70 miles per hour speed limit imposed is an absolute speed limit. This means a motorist violates the law simply by driving one mile per hour more than the speed limit.3
Note that the state can impose speed limits below 65 MPH on some stretches of the freeways. Exceeding those speed limits can result in a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 22354 (excessive speed on the freeway). Alson note that Vehicle Code 22405 provides special rules against speeding on a bridge or tunnel.
2. Are there legal defenses if accused of speeding on a California freeway?
There are four common defenses if a person is accused of speeding or violating Vehicle Code 22356 VC. These include:
- Showing that you were driving at an excessive speed because of an emergency.
- The police made a mistake.
- The driver was falsely accused.
- The police engaged in an illegal speed trap.
2.1 Can I fight a speeding ticket even if a radar was used?
Police officers typically use radar devices to show that a driver was speeding. A strong legal defense then is showing that the radar device produced an inaccurate reading.
There are three ways to show this. These are:
- Showing that objects interfered with the radar beam (such as trees, trucks or other cars).
- Proving that the radar device was not calibrated properly.
- Demonstrating that the officer using the device did so incorrectly.
As to the first showing, note that a radar device measures speed by shooting out a beam at a target (here, a speeding car). The width of this beam increases with distance. As it increases, it’s possible that the path of the beam will include other cars and objects. The result is that a car might appear as traveling faster than it actually was. It may also be possible to show that the citation constituted an illegal speed trap barred by Vehicle Code 40801.
2.2 Do I need an attorney if I’m accused of violating 22356?
Motorists can represent themselves when fighting a California speeding ticket. But, it’s recommended that anyone charged with this violation hire an experienced lawyer to represent them.
It’s advantageous to hire an attorney for three main reasons. These are:
- Prosecutors tend to offer better deals to defendants with lawyers.
- Defense attorneys are knowledgeable on how to get charge reductions and
3. Defendants with defense lawyers do not have to go to court.
3. What are the penalties if I violate Vehicle Code 22356 VC?
The possible consequences of a motorist driving over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway include:
- Receiving a speeding ticket and a possible driving license suspension; and,
- Getting points assessed to the driver’s DMV driving record.
3.1 Do I get a ticket for speeding or get my license suspended?
A driver that violates VC 22356 will receive a speeding ticket and may get a suspension of his driver’s license.
The exact amount of the ticket will depend on the speed at which the driver was driving. The amount will also include a base fine, fees, and penalty assessments.
If a driver exceeds the speed limit, but wasn’t driving more than 100 miles per hour, then the base fine of a ticket will be:
- $35 if faster than the limit or safe speed by 1 to 15 miles per hour
- $70 if faster than the limit or safe speed by 16 to 25 miles per hour
- $100 if faster than the limit or safe speed by 26 miles per hour or more
The penalties for driving faster than 100 miles per hour include:
- A first offense results in a ticket with a base fine of $500 and up to 30 days of license suspension.
- A second offense within three years of time results in a ticket with a maximum base fine of $750 and a possible license suspension of six months.4
- A third offense within five years of time results in a ticket with a maximum base fine of $1,000 and a possible license suspension of one year.
3.2 How many points are put on my driving record?
Violators of Vehicle Code 22356 will receive one point on their DMV driving record.5
Points assessed on a motorist’s record are reported to that motorist’s insurance carrier. The result is typically an increase in the driver’s insurance rates for several years.
If a person accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period in California, the DMV can declare that person a negligent operator. If this is done, the DMV can suspend or even revoke that person’s driving privileges. Either action requires a California DMV hearing.
4. Do I have to attend traffic school if I drive over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway?
Motorists that violate Vehicle Code 22356 VC do not have to attend traffic school.
Drivers, though, can voluntarily choose to do so. Generally, you can go to traffic school if:
- You have a valid driver’s license;
- The offense occurred while driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
- Your ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.
If a driver elects to go to traffic school, he must still pay his traffic fine.6 However, the driver generally should not get any points on his driving record if he completes the school.7
5. Is it a crime if I violate Vehicle Code 22356?
It is not a crime if a motorist drives over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway.
These violations are infractions under California law and an offender is not subject to incarceration.
6. What happens if I ignore a California speeding ticket?
Two things happen if you ignore a speeding ticket. These are:
- You violate a new law, Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in California on a traffic citation; and,
- You may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.
6.1 What is the violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC?
When you are issued a traffic ticket in California, the officer will have you sign a written promise to appear at the time and place specified.
If you willfully fail to appear as promised, you violate Vehicle Code 40508 VC.8 You willfully fail to appear when you are willingly a no-show. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to break the law.9
Nor does it matter whether you’re guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.10 You violate Vehicle Code 40508 just by breaking a promise to:
- Appear in court,
- Appear to pay bail,
- Pay bail in installments,
- Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
- Comply with any condition of the court.11
6.2 What are the penalties for violating Vehicle Code 40508 VC?
Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.12
7. What is the effect of a speeding violation on a personal injury lawsuit?
A driver who speeds over 70 miles per hour on a California freeway, and thereby causes an accident, is likely to be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit.
California law defines “negligence” as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. In the context of an auto accident, the negligent driver is at fault for the accident. Further, the negligent driver may have to pay for any damages caused.
Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a defendant’s violation of a statute or ordinance
This means a driver would be negligent per se if driving more than 70 miles per hour since he would be in violation of VC 22356.
Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, the driver may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California’s comparative fault laws.
8. Are there laws related to VC 22356?
There are three laws related to speeding on California’s freeways. These are:
- Speeding in violation of California’s basic speeding law;
- Speeding in violation of California’s “prima facie” speed limits; and,
- Reckless driving.
8.1 What is California’s basic speeding law?
California’s basic speeding law is found in California Vehicle Code 22350 VC. This code section reads:
No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.13
The basic speeding law in California, therefore, requires motorists to drive at a reasonable and safe speed. What a reasonable and safe speed is will depend on the circumstances or facts of a case.14
A motorist found in violation of VC 22350 will face the same penalties as a violator of VC 22356. Again, these include:
- A speeding ticket and the possibility of a license suspension.15
- One point on the motorist’s DMV driving record.
8.2 What are California’s “prima facie” speed limits?
California’s “prima facie,” or presumed, speed limits are set forth in California Vehicle Code 22352 VC. According to this section, and unless otherwise posted, the “prima facie” speed limits are:
- 15 miles per hour at railroad crossings, in alleys, and highway intersections without 100 feet of visibility of approaching vehicles; and,
- 25 miles per hour in business and residential districts and school zones.16
If a driver is driving faster than a “prima facie” speed limit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is speeding and in violation of the law.
A driver can still be found not guilty of speeding if he can show that he was not in violation of the basic speeding law. This means he must show that his speed was safe and reasonable under the given circumstances. If the driver cannot do this, he is in violation of California Vehicle Code 22351 VC.17
A motorist found breaking California’s “prima facie” speed limits will face the same penalties as a violator of VC 22356. Again, these include:
1. A speeding ticket and the possibility of a license suspension.18
2. One point on the motorist’s DMV driving record.
8.3 What is reckless driving under California law?
California’s Reckless Driving law makes it a crime to drive with a wanton disregard for the safety of people or property.19
If no one other than the reckless driver is injured, violation of this law is a California misdemeanor. It can be punished at most by:
- Five to ninety days in jail, and/or
- A fine of between $145 and $1,000.20
But, the possible jail sentence and fine increase if the reckless driving causes an injury. In this case, the reckless driving can also get charged, but doesn’t have to, as a felony. This is where California’s reckless driving becomes a California “wobbler” offense.
For further assistance…
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- California Vehicle Code 22356 (a) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 22356 (b) VC.
- California has two additional absolute speed limits. These prohibit drivers from driving faster than:65 miles per hour on freeways and other highways (that are not marked for 70 miles per hour); and,55 miles per hour on two-lane, undivided highways (unless marked for a higher speed).
California Vehicle Code 22349 VC and California Vehicle Code 22356 VC.
Absolute speed limits are to be compared with California’s “prima facie” speed limits. See Section 8.2 of this article.
- See California Vehicle Code 13355 VC and California Vehicle Code 22348 VC.
- See DMV.org.
- See California Courts website.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
- See same.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.
- California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
- California Vehicle Code 22350 VC.
- People v. Farleigh (2017) 221Cal. Rptr. 3d 253.
- The amount of the speeding ticket is the same as the amounts discussed under Section 3.1 of this article.
- California Vehicle Code 22352 VC.
- See California Vehicle Code 22351 VC.
- The amount of the speeding ticket is the same as the amounts discussed under Section 3.1 of this article.
- California Vehicle Code 23103 VC.
- Vehicle Code 23103(c) VC.