What Is Felony Speeding In California? Laws, Penalties And Defense

Speeding on California roads and highways is a common offense, but at what point does it become a felony? Going too fast can endanger others and lead to catastrophic collisions. If you’ve been pulled over for excessive speeding, you may be wondering if you could face felony charges. Here’s a quick answer: In California, felony speeding involves exceeding the speed limit by more than 100 mph or causing injury/death through speeding. It brings severe consequences like multi-year prison sentences.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain California’s laws on felony speeding, including what speeds can trigger a felony, associated penalties, and possible defenses. We’ll also discuss the differences between speeding infractions, misdemeanors and felonies in California.

California’s Laws on Felony Speeding

When it comes to speeding violations, California has strict laws in place to ensure the safety of its residents. Felony speeding is a serious offense that carries severe penalties. Understanding the laws surrounding felony speeding is crucial to avoid any legal consequences.

Let’s take a closer look at California’s laws on felony speeding.

Definition of Felony Speeding

Felony speeding refers to driving at excessive speeds that pose a significant risk to public safety. In California, it is considered a felony offense when a driver operates a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others.

This means that the driver intentionally ignores the potential harm their actions may cause, such as driving at dangerously high speeds in residential areas or school zones.

Felony speeding is different from a regular speeding ticket, as it is a more serious offense that can result in severe consequences. It is important to note that the specific penalties for felony speeding can vary depending on the circumstances of the case and the driver’s prior record.

Speeds that Qualify as Felony Speeding

While there is no specific speed limit that automatically qualifies as felony speeding in California, driving at excessive speeds significantly above the posted limits can lead to felony charges. Generally, if a driver exceeds the speed limit by 30 miles per hour or more on a regular road or 20 miles per hour or more in a school zone or residential area, they may be charged with felony speeding.

It is important to remember that these speed limits are just guidelines, and the determination of felony speeding ultimately depends on the circumstances of each case. Factors such as road conditions, weather, and the presence of pedestrians or other vehicles can also influence whether a driver is charged with felony speeding.

Injury/Death Caused by Speeding

One of the most severe consequences of felony speeding is when it results in injury or death. When a driver’s excessive speed leads to a collision that causes bodily harm or death to another person, they can face even more severe penalties.

In such cases, the driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter or even murder, depending on the circumstances.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident caused by felony speeding, it is crucial to seek legal counsel immediately. A skilled attorney can help build a strong defense strategy and navigate the complex legal process.

For more information on California’s laws regarding felony speeding, you can visit the official website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/.

Penalties and Punishment for Felony Speeding

Felony speeding in California carries severe penalties and punishments. The consequences vary depending on the circumstances of the offense, including whether there was any injury or death involved.

Felony Speeding Without Injury/Death

If a driver is caught committing felony speeding without causing injury or death, they may face the following penalties:

  • Up to three years of probation
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Two points added to their driving record
  • Possible suspension of their driver’s license

It is important to note that these penalties can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the judge’s discretion.

Felony Speeding Causing Injury/Death

If a driver is convicted of felony speeding and it results in injury or death, the penalties become much more severe:

  • Up to five years of probation
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Up to three years in state prison
  • Two points added to their driving record
  • Possible suspension or revocation of their driver’s license

In cases where the speeding resulted in the death of another person, the driver may also face charges of vehicular manslaughter. These charges can lead to even harsher penalties, including longer prison sentences.

Driver’s License Suspension

In addition to the fines and potential jail time, those convicted of felony speeding may also face a suspension or revocation of their driver’s license. The length of the suspension or revocation will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and may range from several months to several years.

It is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney if you are facing charges of felony speeding. They can help you understand the potential penalties and develop a strong defense strategy to protect your rights.

The Difference Between Speeding Infractions, Misdemeanors and Felonies

When it comes to speeding violations, there are three distinct categories: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Understanding the differences between these categories is crucial as it determines the severity of the penalties one might face.

Speeding Infraction Penalties

Speeding infractions are the least severe of the three categories. They typically result in a fine and may also lead to points on the driver’s license. The specific penalties vary depending on the speed at which the driver was caught exceeding the limit.

In California, for example, a driver caught going 1-15 miles per hour over the speed limit can expect to pay a fine of $35, while those caught going 16-25 miles per hour over the limit can face a fine of $70.

It’s important to note that these fines can increase if the driver has prior speeding infractions on their record.

Speeding Misdemeanor Penalties

Speeding misdemeanors are more serious offenses than infractions and can result in harsher penalties. If a driver is caught excessively speeding or driving at a speed that endangers others, they may be charged with a misdemeanor.

The penalties for speeding misdemeanors can include fines, probation, community service, and even jail time. The severity of the penalties will depend on factors such as the driver’s speed, the presence of prior traffic violations, and any resulting harm or damage caused by the speeding.

How Speeding Escalates to a Felony

While speeding infractions and misdemeanors are common, felony speeding is a rare occurrence and only applies in specific situations. Speeding can escalate to a felony charge if it results in injury, death, or significant property damage.

For example, if a driver is excessively speeding and causes a car accident that results in serious injuries or fatalities, they may be charged with a felony. The penalties for felony speeding can include significant fines, lengthy license suspension or revocation, probation, and even imprisonment.

It’s important to note that the specific laws and penalties for speeding infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies can vary by state. It’s always advisable to consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in traffic law to understand the specific laws and consequences in your jurisdiction.

For more information on traffic laws and penalties, you can visit the official California Department of Motor Vehicles website at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/.

Possible Defenses Against Felony Speeding Charges

Challenging the Radar Gun Evidence

One possible defense against felony speeding charges is to challenge the radar gun evidence. Radar guns are commonly used by law enforcement officers to measure the speed of a vehicle. However, these devices are not infallible and can sometimes produce inaccurate readings.

It is important to question the calibration and accuracy of the radar gun used in your case. You may also want to consider hiring an expert witness who can testify to the unreliability of the radar gun or identify any potential errors in its operation.

Did you know? According to a study conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, radar guns have an error rate of up to 2-3 mph.

Questioning the Traffic Survey

In some cases, the speed limit on a particular road may be based on a traffic survey. This survey determines the speed at which the majority of drivers typically travel on that road. However, these surveys can be outdated or flawed.

If you can demonstrate that the traffic survey was not conducted properly or that the speed limit was set unreasonably low, it may weaken the prosecution’s case against you.

Did you know? According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, speed limits set using outdated traffic surveys can lead to an increase in accidents.

Verifying Speed Limit Signage

Another potential defense against felony speeding charges is to verify the accuracy and visibility of speed limit signage. It is possible that the speed limit signs were obstructed, damaged, or missing altogether.

If you can prove that the speed limit signage was not properly displayed, it may cast doubt on the prosecution’s claim that you were aware of the posted speed limit.

Did you know? According to the California Department of Transportation, speed limit signs must be placed at regular intervals along a roadway and should be clearly visible to motorists.


Felony speeding in California involves exceeding the speed limit by over 100 mph or causing injury/death through excessive speed. It is punished harshly with multi-year prison terms and large fines. Understanding the specific laws, penalties, and possible defenses is important for anyone facing felony speeding charges. With proper legal guidance, some options may exist to reduce charges to an infraction or misdemeanor.

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