CRS 42-4-1101 is the Colorado law that prohibits speeding. Driving less than 25 mph over the limit is a class A traffic infraction, which carries a civil fine and possibly DMV points. But driving 25 mph or faster over the limit is a criminal traffic misdemeanor, though judges rarely impose jail time. Ignoring a misdemeanor traffic ticket will cause a bench warrant to issue for the defendant’s arrest, and the DMV can suspend the person’s license.
Below our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss:
- 1. What are the speeding penalties in Colorado?
- 2. How do I fight speeding tickets under CRS 42-4-1101?
- 3. What happens if I ignore the ticket?
- 4. Does speeding give police probable cause for a DUI stop?
- 5. Can I sue if I was hit by a speeding driver?
1. What are the speeding penalties in Colorado?
The punishment for violating CRS 42-4-1101 depends on how fast the defendant was allegedly driving over the maximum lawful speed limit. Note that penalties are doubled if the speeding occurred in a maintenance, repair, or construction zone.1
Colorado speeding violation
|1 to 4 mph over the limit||Class A traffic infraction: |
|5 to 9 mph over the limit||Class A traffic infraction: |
|10 to 19 mph over the limit||Class A traffic infraction: |
|20 to 24 mph over the limit||Class A traffic infraction: |
|Driving too fast given the road conditions||Class A traffic infraction: |
|Exceeding a prudent speed on a bridge||Class A traffic infraction: |
|25 or more mph over the limit||Class 2 traffic misdemeanor: |
|25 or more mph over the limit in a construction zone||Class 1 traffic misdemeanor: |
In addition to criminal penalties, defendants can also expect their insurance premiums to increase for moving violations.
Note that racking up too many DMV points in the state of Colorado can cause the DMV to suspend the person’s license for a 6-month to a 12-month period. For instance, under this point system, adult drivers 21 and older automatically lose their driving privileges if they pick up 12 DMV points in 12 consecutive months. (It may be possible to eliminate some number of points from the driving record by doing traffic school.) 2
Also note that commercial drivers face a 60-day license suspension of their CDL if they commit two “serious” traffic violations in a commercial vehicle in a 3-year period. Speeding 15 mph or higher counts as a serious violation.3
See our related articles on speed contests (CRS 42-4-1105), careless driving (CRS 42-4-1402), and reckless driving (CRS 42-4-1401).
2. How do I fight speeding tickets under CRS 42-4-1101?
Four defense strategies to fight charges of alleged speeding violations include arguing that:
- The police were wrong;
- An emergency justified the speed;
- The driver was falsely accused; or
- The signage was wrong
Note that prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to prove the defendant violated a traffic law. It does not matter whether the charge is for an infraction or a misdemeanor.4
2.1. The police were wrong
Police radars can malfunction. Or perhaps the police officer pulled over the wrong driver. Either way, the defense attorney’s job is to investigate the matter in detail. This includes finding surveillance video and eye-witnesses and testing the law enforcement’s radar gun for defects. Depending on the available evidence, the prosecutor may be willing to drop the case.
2.2. An emergency justified the speed
An emergency does not make speeding legal. But prosecutors may choose to drop the case if the defense attorney can show that any reasonable person in the defendant’s situation would have exceeded a safe speed as well. Potential examples that may justify otherwise unlawful speeding include:
- Escaping from a tornado or other special hazard
- Rushing to a hospital (if no ambulances are available)
- Eluding a dangerous motorist
- Having a seizure or other medical episode which causes the driver to lose control
- Making way for an authorized emergency vehicle or other such vehicle
2.3. The driver was falsely accused
Perhaps the peace officer issued a bogus citation to meet some sort of quota or to get back at an obnoxious driver. In these cases, the police’s dashcam footage is very important. And defense attorneys would search for any other available evidence – such as witnesses or other people’s smartphone videos – to show that the defendant violated no traffic regulations.
2.4. The signage was wrong
Many official traffic control devices on public highways and controlled-access highways are turning digital and can be operated remotely. Therefore, there is always the possibility that human error or a technical defect caused the sign to display the wrong posted speed limit. If the traffic lawyer can show that the driver was just obeying what the traffic sign said, the prosecutor may dismiss the CRS 42-4-1101 case.
3. What happens if I ignore the ticket?
If the ticket is for a traffic infraction, failing to appear in court or making a fine payment will result in a default judgment against the defendant. The case will then be sent to collections.
If the ticket is for a traffic misdemeanor, failing to appear or make a fine paying will result in the judge issuing a bench warrant. The defendant also faces an additional charge – for a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. This carries $150 to $300 in fines, and/or 10 to 90 days in jail.5
Bench warrants make the defendant vulnerable to arrest at any time, especially during any future traffic stops. The only way to get a bench warrant recalled (“quashed”) is to file a motion to quash the warrant with the court and appear at a hearing. Defendants are advised to hire an attorney to handle this process.
Another consequence of ignoring a traffic ticket is that the DMV will suspend the person’s Colorado driver’s license. The DMV usually gives defendants 30 days to get pay the default judgment and get warrant quashed (if necessary) before suspending the driver’s license.6
See our related article on driving with a suspended license / driving under restraint (CRS 42-2-138).
4. Does speeding give police probable cause for a DUI stop?
Usually, no. But many speeding-related traffic stops turn into DUI/DWAI arrests.
Once a Colorado State Patrol officer pulls over an alleged speeder, the officer may ask if the driver has had anything to drink. And if the officer smells alcohol or marijuana or detects that the driver is intoxicated, the officer then may proceed with administering a preliminary breath test to check blood alcohol content and field sobriety tests.
Depending on the results of these tests, the officer may then have probable cause to arrest the driver for driving under the influence or driving while ability impaired.
5. Can I sue if I was hit by a speeding driver?
Yes. Many car accident cases stem from a driver of a vehicle exceeding the speed limit or other traffic violations. Victims may then be able to sue the at-fault driver for negligence per se. This “cause of action” has four elements that the victim (plaintiff) would need to show by a preponderance of the evidence:
- The defendant violated a law (by speeding);
- This law was meant to protect people like the plaintiff (as someone who shared the road with the defendant);
- The defendant’s violation caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- These injuries resulted in money damages.
The plaintiff’s Colorado personal injury attorney would fight for enough compensatory damages to cover all the plaintiff’s medical bills for bodily injury, lost wages (if any), motor vehicle property damage, and pain and suffering. Note that most car crash cases settle out of court between the plaintiff’s law firm and the defendant’s insurance company.
Ticketed in California? See our article on speeding tickets (VC 22350).
Ticketed in Nevada? See our article on speeding tickets (NRS 484B.600).
- CRS 42-4-614.
- Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1101 CRS (“[A]ny speed in excess of the lawful speeds … shall be prima facie evidence that such speed was not reasonable or prudent under the conditions then existing.“); CRS 42-2-127; see Shafron v. Cooke, 190 P.3d 812 (Colo. App. 2008); see United States v. Boyer, 935 F. Supp. 1138 (D. Colo. 1996).
- 49 C.F.R. 383.51. Note that defendants may receive summons, complaints, and/or penalty assessment notices.
- CRS 42-4-1708.
- CRS 42-4-1716.
- CRS 42-4-1709.