Some consider the speeding laws in Utah to be lenient compared to those in most other states. The reason for this is because Utah wants to reduce stress on its criminal justice system. However, there can still be serious consequences for speeding offenses in Utah. For example, having your license suspended or revoked for multiple traffic violations can make your life difficult.
Speeding Laws in Utah
Utah regulates speeding in a variety of situations. For example, speeding to an intersection or across railroad tracks may be a chargeable offense in Utah. There are other examples that Title 41 of Utah’s Motor Vehicles Traffic Code §41-6a-601 specifically identifies as dangerous when speeding:
• approaching and going around a curve
• approaching a hill crest
• traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway
Utah, like other states, also lists lawful speed limits depending on the area you are driving through. Utah law dictates that drivers adhere to the following speed limits:
• 20 miles per hour in a “reduced speed school zone”
• 25 miles per hour in “any urban district”
• 55 miles per hour everywhere else
Utah identifies a “reduced speed school zone” as any roadway near a school that has flashing lights and a posted, reduced speed limit warning stating that the area is a school zone. Violating the speed limit in a school zone may result in stiffer penalties than offenses not involving a school zone. Additionally, every county or municipality in Utah has the power to adjust speed restrictions for their roads. Using a motor vehicle to compete in a race on Utah roads is also an offense that will trigger increased penalties for speeding. Speeding usually does not end in arrest in Utah. However, certain violations may get you arrested and charged with offenses carrying possible jail terms. For example, driving faster than 20 miles per hour in a reduced speed school zone is a class C misdemeanor. In Utah, class C misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail. You can also be fined for speeding in a school zone. The fines increase depending on the rate of speed you were traveling:
• Drivers traveling 21-29 mph may receive a $50 fine
• You can receive a $125 fine for driving 30-39 mph
• Speeds 40 mph or more also carry a $125 fine
Repeated school zone offenses will increase the potential fine.
Speed contests or an exhibition on Utah’s highways is a class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors carry a penalty of up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Racing on Utah’s streets may also result in a 60-day driver’s license suspension for a first offense. If you have another racing violation within three years, your license may be suspended for up to 90 days. Other crimes like driving under the influence while racing may ensure you are arrested. Aside from these offenses, Utah normally charges speeding as an infraction. Utah operates on a demerit point system for driving violations. The demerit points you receive depends on how high you were over the speed limit:
• You can receive 35 demerit points for traveling 1-10 mph over the posted speed limit
• Being 11-20 mph over the speed limit may mean 55 demerits points on your driving record
• If you are 21 mph over the speed limit (or more), you will receive 75 demerit points
If you are over the age of 21 and accrue 200 or more points in three years, your license may be suspended for three months to a year. The threshold for license suspension is lower for drivers under the age of 21. If you are younger than 21 and accrue 70 demerit points in three years, your license may be suspended from one month up to a year. When you are issued a traffic ticket, police will not commonly arrest you. However, the US Supreme Court has said that police can arrest you for minor offenses, even for traffic offenses. Talk to an attorney if you feel you were illegally arrested or had your rights violated during a traffic stop. There are options you may have for clearing your record of these driving offenses.
Penalty for Reckless Driving
Reckless driving is defined as:
• driving in a “willful or want on disregard for the safety of persons or property,” or
• committing three separate moving violations within a continuous three miles of driving.
A first violation carries up to 90 days in jail, a maximum $1,000 in fines, and the possibility of license suspension of up to three months.
Utah is in the minority of states that use a prima facie or presumed speed limit law. In states that use this system for all or some of their roads, it’s legal to drive over the posted limit as long as you are driving safely. For example, if you are driving 50 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone, you are presumed to be speeding. But if it is 6 a.m. on a clear, dry morning with no other cars on a wide, straight road, and you can convince the judge that you were driving safely given those conditions, you should be acquitted. That’s because you present facts that “rebut the presumption” that by going over the limit you were driving at an unsafe speed.
In states such as Utah, if you’re accused of violating a presumed speed limit, you may be able to make two possible defenses:
• claim you weren’t exceeding the posted speed limit, or
• claim that, even if you were exceeding the posted limit, you were driving safely given the specific road, weather, and traffic conditions at the time.
Occasionally an officer will incorrectly measure your speed. But even when that happens, it can be hard to convince a judge to accept your version of the story. In short, if you were ticketed in a “presumed” speed area, it is most sensible to rely on the argument that you may have been driving slightly over the posted speed limit, but it was safe to do so considering all the highway conditions at the time. For example, if you know you were driving 33 to 35 miles per hour in a 25-mile-per-hour zone, and the officer can probably prove it, you should concentrate your defense on showing that you were driving at a reasonable speed, considering the conditions at the time you were stopped. Note that in Utah you can be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed, even if that speed does not violate the posted limit—for example, driving exactly at the maximum mph posted limit on the freeway amidst slower and heavy traffic, in a dense fog, or in a driving rainstorm or blizzard.
Utah uses a point system to keep track of driver’s traffic violations. Accumulating too many points can lead to license suspension. Driving is such an indelible part of modern life that every state has a complex system of laws governing how people must act when operating a vehicle. Because vehicles are potentially so dangerous, driving in a reckless or unsafe manner is a crime in itself. Anyone charged with this crime faces significant penalties. The crime of reckless driving occurs whenever someone operates a vehicle in such a way that it poses a risk to others. Unlike some other traffic laws, such as speeding violations, reckless driving is highly dependent on the circumstances of each individual case. Though many states list specific actions that qualify as reckless driving, drivers can be convicted of this crime whenever they drive in an unreasonably dangerous manner.
• Factors: Courts weigh a number of factors when determining what constitutes reckless driving. These include the time of day, the weather conditions present, the presence of other people or animals, the qualities of the vehicle, a driver’s familiarity with the area, as well as numerous other factors.
• Beyond negligence: Reckless driving is more than simply making a mistake or being negligent while driving. A driver has to act willfully and with an active disregard for safety. However, a prosecutor does not have to necessarily show the driver’s mental state at the time. It’s enough for the prosecution to show that the circumstances surrounding the event either caused the driver to know, or the driver should have known that the driving was not safe.
• Safety risk: While reckless driving necessarily involves a heightened amount of danger to other people, a prosecutor does not have to show that other people were actually placed in jeopardy. Reckless driving can occur even if no one else is on the roadway or there is no property damaged. It’s enough for drivers to endanger their own lives or risk damaging their own property to qualify as reckless drivers.
• “Per Se” reckless: Some states have laws that list specific conditions that automatically qualify as reckless driving. These are known as “per se” conditions. This simply means that a driver acted recklessly if the prosecutor can show that even one of the specified conditions is present. Some common per se factors include speeding 20 mph or more above a posted speed limit, passing a school bus, passing at a railroad crossing, or participating in a street race.
Reckless driving is one of the more serious traffic offenses a person can commit. If you are convicted of reckless driving, you face significant penalties that often include jail, fines, and the revocation of your license. Though penalties differ significantly among states and depend on the circumstances of the case, reckless driving charges typically bring with them a range of penalties.
• Jail or prison: Reckless driving is often categorized as a misdemeanor offense, meaning that a person convicted of the crime faces up to one year in jail. However, a small number of states also allow the crime to be charged as a felony, meaning a conviction can bring a year or more in a state prison. Felony charges are often filed in situations where someone was injured as a result of the reckless driving.
• Fines: Fines are a very common penalty when a person is convicted of reckless driving. The amount of the fine can differ widely based on the state and circumstances of the crime, but they usually range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
• Probation: Probation sentences are also possible with reckless driving convictions, though they are highly dependent on the circumstances of the case and the driver’s driving history. If a court sentences you to probation, it will require you to comply with specific terms, such as finding a job, making regular visits to a probation officer, and not committing any crimes or other traffic violations. If you violate the terms of probation, the court may revoke it and force you to serve a jail or prison sentence instead. Probation typically lasts 12 months or more.
• License suspension: A person convicted of reckless driving also faces the possibility of a license suspension or revocation. State laws typically include a mandatory suspension of at least 30 days whenever a person is convicted of reckless driving. If the driver has previous reckless driving convictions or other traffic violations, lengthier suspensions and even permanent license revocation is also possible.
Anyone facing a reckless driving charge should always consult a local criminal defense attorney before taking any further steps in your case. A local attorney will know how local prosecutors and courts handle reckless driving charges, what the state requirements are, and will have experience dealing with reckless driving and other traffic offenses. Even if you have never been convicted of a crime and don’t believe you are guilty of the charge, reckless driving is a serious offense that has significant consequences, including an impact on your ability to obtain insurance. Don’t dismiss a reckless driving charge as simply another traffic ticket, and speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A driver shows reckless disregard or negligent behavior that may be considered reckless driving when he or she:
• Operates a motor vehicle at an excessive or dangerous speed
• Places other drivers at danger by running stop signs or red lights
• Fails to yield the right-of-way (intentionally) to other drivers and pedestrians
• Drives under the influence (DUI) or drives while intoxicated (DWI) (Note: it’s possible to be charged and convicted of a DUI/DWI as well as reckless driving)
• Races with other motor vehicles
• Evades law enforcement
• Passes over a double yellow line on a two-lane highway
• Texts and drives
• Talks on a mobile device and drives
• Passes a stopped school bus
• Fails to provide electronic or hand signals
Criminal Lawyer Free Consultation
When you need legal help with a criminal case in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC (801) 676-5506 for your Free Consultation. We can help you with Drug Crimes. Theft Crimes. Sex Crimes. White Collar Crimes. Assault. Battery. and Much More. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506