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So you got a speeding ticket, huh? Ouch. To be fair, though, that fine could have been the least of your worries. There’s no shortage of stories of folks’ cars getting impounded, four-figure fines, etc. Ultimately, though, could you pay the ultimate price for putting your foot down? Can you go to jail for speeding?

Excessive speeding can be considered reckless driving, which is a jailable offense

A Ford Explorer police car parked on the side of the street.
Police car | Alexandra Schuler/picture alliance via Getty Images

According to Rosenfield Injury Lawyers, you can wind up spending some time behind bars for speeding. However, for that to be the case, the charge typically needs to be more severe than your standard-issue speeding ticket. Generally, you’ll only wind up in jail if you’re speeding enough to warrant a reckless driving charge.

The threshold for reckless driving depends on which state you live in. According to MIT, some states have varying levels of penalties for varying levels of speeding. Rhode Island, Texas, and Utah allow you to argue in court that your speed was safe despite being beyond the speed limit. In addition, a handful of other states have laws in place that ensure you won’t get points on your license for speeding if you’re within a certain range. For most states in this situation, it’s 5 MPH or less. However, A handful of states allow up to 10 and even 15 MPH.

Generally speaking, though, many states consider your offense to be reckless driving if you are traveling 25 to 30 miles per hour over the speed limit. Some states consider reckless driving over a certain speed ranging from 80 to 100 MPH, regardless of the circumstances.

The officer pulling you over has discretion over your offense

If you get pulled over for speeding, the officer pulling you over effectively gets to decide how you are punished for it. If you remain civil, you may just get off with a warning, depending on your overall speed. However, if you’re pulled over for a speed that is within the realm of reckless driving, your chances of getting away with it are a lot slimmer. Again, though, that depends on the officer and the speed.

Many folks would encourage you to never admit to knowing how fast you were going. That being said, we aren’t lawyers, so we are certainly not offering legal advice. Other than the standard issue “don’t speed if you don’t want a ticket” advice, that is.

Overall, your chances of going to jail for speeding are typically pretty slim. Many states will just issue you a fine for reckless driving. However, it isn’t entirely impossible. You may well end up in jail with your car impounded if you’re unlucky enough.


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