The following article was authored by Theodore Arthur Sande, a theoretical astrophysicist who has never been convicted of exceeding the speed of light.
The natural beauty of the Utah landscape is unrivaled, making a long driving trip across the splendid desolation of its vast, scenic expanses a unique aesthetic experience. You can easily become hypnotically immersed in its buttes, mesas and canyons and inadvertently exceed the posted speed limit. Unfortunately, the excuse of taking in the sites will not dissuade the police officer who detains you from issuing a speeding ticket.
Utah’s basic speed law and the presumed speed limit
Maximum speed limits in Utah are the direct statutory consequence of Utah’s Basic Speed Law which states:
A person may not operate a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the existing conditions, giving regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.
UT ST §41-6a-601(1)
What makes Utah’s maximum speed limits unique is that exceeding them results in merely a presumption, not a determination, of a violation of the Utah Basic Speed Law. Most other states have strict liability speed limits, whereby a ticket for speeding is based solely upon the prima facia (latin for at first face or appearance) evidence that you were physically exceeding the posted limit. This evidence is obtained by local or state police or county sheriff using radar or pacing.
In most states other than Utah merely exceeding the speed limit, albeit safely, reasonably and prudently, given the present road, weather and traffic conditions, cannot be raised as a valid defense in traffic court. In Utah this defense can be validly raised. In other words, even if you are caught exceeding the speed limit, Utah allows you to claim your innocence if you can present affirmative evidence that you did so safely and in conformance with the letter and spirit of the Basic Speed Law (which does not actually make any explicit reference to maximum speed limits). In other words, you might elude a conviction of guilt if you can convincingly demonstrate that you were speeding in a reasonable and prudent manner given the totality of driving conditions at the time and place the offense occurred. Retaining an experience traffic attorney provides the highest probability of having your ticket dismissed in this manner.
Utah’s maximum speed limits
The maximum speed limits, as determined by the Utah Department of Transportation (DOT) are clearly posted on roadsigns and vary by the nature of the roadway. The general maximum speed limits are as follows:
Rural interstates – 75 MPH, 80 MPH on specified segments
Urban interstates – 65 MPH
Other limited access interstate roads – 75 MPH
Other interstate roads – 65 MPH
Highways and streets – 55 MPH or as specified
school zones (children present) – 20 MPH
work zones (workers are present) – as posted
Utah is unique in that the maximum posted interstate speed limit can be as high as 80 MPH! If you wish to drive this fast, take advantage of these legal, high speed stretches but otherwise slow down to the legal limit upon their clearly posted termination.
Utah’s penalties for speeding convictions
A conviction for speeding in Utah will result in two immediate adverse consequences:
- the levying of a monetary fine, and
- the assignment of demerit points to your personal driving record.
Monetary fines and the Utah Uniform Fine/Bail Schedule
Utah’s speeding fine schedule is uniquely confusing, in that the precise fine levied for a speeding conviction is not uniform across the state but varies from county to county. Fines also depend upon aggravating circumstances, e.g., speeding resulting in an actual collision and injury. The 2016 Utah Uniform Fine/Bail Schedule does provide an illustrative estimate of the probable fine, which is generally lower in price to the suggested bail, including surcharge amount, actually listed, as assigned in its Speeding Violation chart.
General speeding violation fines
1-10 MPH over posted speed limit – $120
11-15 MPH over posted speed limit- $150
16-20 MPH over posted speed limit – $200
21-25 MPH over posted speed limit – $270
26-30 MPH over posted speed limit – $370
31+ MPH over posted speed limit – $470 + $10 per MPH in excess of 31 MPH
Fines are even more draconian in construction and reduced speed school zones.
Construction zone speeding violation fines
1-10 MPH over posted speed limit – $170
11-15 MPH over posted speed limit – $220
16-20 MPH over posted speed limit – $320
21-25 MPH over posted speed limit – $470
26-30 MPH over posted speed limit – $670
31+ MPH over posted speed limit – $870 + $20 per MPH in excess of 31 MPH
If workers are present as you cruise by, the fine is automatically doubled! UT ST §41-6a209(3)(a)
Reduced speed school zone speeding violation fines (first/second offense)
1-10 MPH over posted speed limit – $140/140
11-15 MPH over posted speed limit – $240/370
20+ MPH over posted speed limit – $440/780
As you can see, speeding ticket fines in Utah are uniquely and prohibitively expensive.
Utah’s point system and your Utah Motor Vehicle Record (MVR)
Your personal Utah driving record, officially entitled the Utah Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), contains your history of all moving violation convictions and license suspensions for the past 3 years. Similar to the majority of states, Utah employs a point-based demerit system that assigns points to your driving record for every moving violation. Convictions for speeding offenses assign points in the range of 35-75 points, depending on the severity of the violation.
1-10 MPH over posted speed limit – 35 points
11-20 MPH over posted speed limit – 55 points
21+ MPH over posted speed limit – 75 points
These point assignments for any given offense are not set in stone and can vary by up to 10% based on the driver’s previous record and any aggravating circumstances for the current conviction.
Consequences of DVR point assignment
If the driver is under 21 years old and accumulates 70 or more points in any 3 year period, driver’s license suspension for 1 month to a full year can be the consequence. If the driver is older than 21 and accumulate 200 or more points in any 3 year window, suspension for 3 months to a year can ensue. The precise suspension period is contingent upon your overall driving record and the specific severity of all the recorded violations.
Automotive insurance premium increase
Your Utah driving record is accessible to all automotive insurance underwriters. When your carrier detects that you have been assigned points for speeding, your monthly premiums will invariably increase. Your payment of the speeding ticket thus results in paying additional monthly penalties. Consider this as a string of new mini-ticket twelve times a year!
Clearing your Utah MVR of points
In a rare display of mercy, Utah instituted a unique incentive system to entice you to refrain from future speeding offenses after amassing previous convictions. If you are not convicted of any moving violations—including speeding—for a period of a full year, half of the remaining points on your driving record will be erased. If you avoid moving violations for a 2 year period, all remaining points will be removed from your record. In addition, after 3 years, each moving violation conviction and its associated point assignment will be expunged. If you enroll and successfully complete a Utah state approved Driver Improvement Course recommend by a Utah division hearing officer, 50 additional points can be erased UT ADC R708-3-3 and UT ADC R708-3-5(1)(b)).
Contesting your Utah speeding ticket
The cardinal point to always remember is that the issuance of a speeding ticket does not mean you are legally guilty of speeding, at least not immediately. The ticket is merely the state’s accusation that you are guilty of speeding. You are, however, innocent of this charge until proven guilty in a traffic court or by your own admission of guilt.
Unfortunately, most drivers acquiesce and mail in the specified fine payment unless required to appear in court. This payment constitutes a de facto admission of guilt no different than if you had explicitly plead guilty before the judge at your pre-trial arraignment.
Given the unusually large fines, additional point penalties, insurance premium increases, and the possibility of license revocation, it is advisable to retain an experienced traffic ticket attorney to represent you in traffic court who possess the experience and expertise to significantly mitigate present and future consequences. Your traffic attorney can effectively defend you from these consequences by plea bargaining with the district attorney to a lesser speeding offense with a lesser concomitant punishment, or taking your case to trial in the hopes of achieving a complete dismissal via a verdict of not guilty, e.g. rebutting the presumption of speeding by demonstrating you were driving safely, impeaching the state’s evidence (unreliable radar), etc.
Choosing a traffic attorney
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