Can Speeding Be Charged as a Felony in California?


You hit the accelerator a little too hard on an empty stretch of highway. Flashing lights appear behind you, and your heart drops. How fast did that cop clock you going anyway? Could racing 20 or 30 MPH over possibly land you with a felony on your record?

It may seem crazy, but under California law, excessive speeding does enter felony territory, depending on the circumstances. Yet few drivers realize exactly how crossing certain MPH thresholds, coupled with factors like prior violations or injuring others, turns a “minor” speeding incident into an offense as serious as theft or assault.

This blog dives into when speeding goes from a basic infraction into a full-on felony in the Golden State.

Most Excessive Speed Violations Trigger Misdemeanor Charges

While most minor speeding violations remain civil infractions warranting defined fee schedules, excessive speeding over 100 mph inherently constitutes prima facie evidence of a “willful and wanton disregard for public safety” per California statute 23103 VC.

As such, travel over 100 mph provides documented grounds for city, county, and/or state prosecutors to pursue criminal misdemeanor charges. The elevated violations are classified as “wobblers” under California law, with flexibility for alternate diversion programs or convictions carrying steep consequences.

Potential penalties if convicted on a misdemeanor reckless driving allegation resulting from excessive speed include 90 days in county jail (unlikely for first offenses absent aggravating factors), fines approaching $1,000 plus fees, up to a 30-day license suspension, required traffic school attendance, restitution for any damages, and critically – 2 negligence points added to your driving record.

When Speeding Warrants Felony Charges

While modest violations may warrant civil fines of around $100, excessive speeding penalties escalate sharply – both financially and into potential criminal charges for highly reckless driving.

Traveling over 100 mph enters felony territory with multi-year prison terms possible for injurious speed contests. Even without harm, repeated tickets over 100 mph trigger “point” accumulations, jeopardizing your driver’s license entirely through suspensions.

Felony Speeding Charges and Penalties

In the most extreme cases documented by police reports or accident investigations, excessive speeding over 100 mph causing great bodily harm or injury may provide grounds for prosecutors to file felony criminal charges rather than mere misdemeanor infractions.

Offenses causing “substantial bodily harm” can trigger 2-10 years in state prison plus alternative misdemeanor-level penalties. Even absent harm, reckless driving over 100 mph with erratic vehicle operation can lead to a year in county jail for the unlawful “action likely to cause serious injury.”

As always, negotiated diversions to traffic school may remain possibilities for first offenses without grave outcomes. But the risks grow formidable. An experienced criminal defense lawyer works vigorously to mitigate devastating sentences.

Aggravating Factors Escalating Penalties

While typically, only the highest speeds over 100 mph may directly trigger potential felony charges in California, certain aggravating circumstances can still escalate fines and sentences at even moderately excessive sub-100 mph velocities. Many such enhancements involve documented hazards like school and construction zones.

School and Construction Zone Violations

For example, California Vehicle Code 22352 institutes additional base fines for any speeding violation within a posted school zone during operational hours or an active construction zone with workers present. Fines typically double compared to equivalent violations on open roads.

Moreover, some district attorneys consider such acts prima facie evidence of reckless driving due to the awareness of enhanced risks to vulnerable pedestrians in those areas. They may pursue misdemeanor charges accordingly depending on factors like repeatedly engaging in speed contests within zones or causing near-miss incidents.

Repeat Offenders and Negligent Drivers

Similarly, patterns of excessive speeding offenses, even if not always technically reckless driving in isolation, will bump overall penalties overtime under California’s traffic point system. Probationary provisional new drivers also draw less leniency. These markers of negligence demonstrate higher relative culpability, warranting harsher treatment under discretionary sentencing guidelines.

How Speeding Affects Insurance Rates

Moreover, misdemeanor convictions for reckless driving typically massively increase insurance premiums for many years, even for generally safe drivers previously. Rates commonly double or worse after such an infraction. This enduring financial consequence provides further incentive to avoid actions risking misdemeanor charges like excessive speeding over 100 mph.

Frequently Asked Questions About Speeding In California.

How much can I go over the speed limit before it becomes a felony in California?

The legal threshold for speeding to become a felony in California is driving in excess of 100 mph or going over double the posted speed limit and causing injury or death. However, it is best to advise drivers to always obey posted speeds for safety.

What is the difference between misdemeanor and felony speeding in California?

Misdemeanor speeding typically applies to speeds over 100 mph without injury or shorter license suspensions, while felony speeding indicates traveling over 100 mph or double the limit while harming others, triggering lengthier imprisonment and additional penalties.

Don’t Face Speeding Charges Alone – Experienced Representation Provides Hope

Facing potential felony excessive speeding charges creates fear and uncertainty through complex processes most people scarcely comprehend. But despite clear driving mistakes made, all cases manifest nuance warranting scrutiny. Even strong evidence leaves room for advocacy centered on proportionality and justice.

At Kolacia Law, our traffic lawyers leverage decades of combined courtroom experience to negotiate reduced sentences based on context. We aim to separate the person from the crime; pursuing equitable treatment and advancing clients’ rights ultimately.

If you or your loved ones are fighting criminal charges, contact us to protect your interests.

Author Bio

Daniel Kolacia is the CEO and Managing Partner of Kolacia Law Firm, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA, criminal defense law firm. As a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he is knowledgeable about both sides of the courtroom, an advantage he uses to help defend his clients. He has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including white-collar crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, and other criminal charges.

Daniel received his Juris Doctor from the Southwestern University School of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has worked on several high-profile cases featured on Dateline, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, and various local publications.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google