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Can You Go to Jail for Speeding?

Can You Go to Jail for Speeding?

Can You Go to Jail for Speeding?

You are almost certainly not going to go to jail for a typical speeding violation in South Carolina. If your speeding violation was over 25 mph over the speed limit then it's technically possible. Even in situations where a minor traffic offense, such as a lower-level speeding violation, doesn't carry jail you can still be legally arrested and taken to jail (but would be released after processing since there is no possible jail sentence associated with the violation). This was decided by the 2001 United States Supreme Court case of Atwater v. City of Lago Vista. This is really far-fetched and is not something most people ever have to worry about. 

What are the consequences of a traffic violation? First, we must understand how traffic citations, speeding tickets, and reckless driving charges are penalized under South Carolina law.

Penalties for Speeding Citations in South Carolina

Traffic laws vary from state to state. According to the South Carolina Code of Laws §56-5-1520, “no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.” This creates the "too fast for conditions" speeding ticket. other speeding tickets are based on exceeding the posted maximum speed limit.

State law also establishes certain speed maximums in various traffic areas, including:

  • 70 MPH on rural interstates
  • 60 MPH on urban interstates and 4-lane arterials
  • 55 MPH on 4-lane bypasses and some 2-lane roads
  • 40 MPH on unpaved roads
  • 35 MPH in urban areas
  • 30 MPH in central business districts and residential areas

The standard speeding ticket penalties are:

Speeding that does not exceed 25 MPH over the posted limit is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of $232.50
  • 4 Points 

Speeding that does not exceed 10 MPH over the posted limit is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of $76.88
  • 2 Points

25 mph or over is punishable by:

  • A maximum fine of $440
  • 6 Points

Fine amounts are calculated by taking the fine amount specified in South Carolina law and then applying a formula to add court costs. This normally more than doubles the actual fine amount required by the court. This procedure is approved by the South Carolina legislature and is how fines can slowly "creep up" to keep up with inflation, without having the legislature go back through and amend every single law. 

How would you end up going to jail?

As a practical matter, the only way I think someone could go to jail for simply speeding in South Carolina is if they smarted off or acted disruptive in the courtroom. But then the jail time wouldn't be for the speeding but would be for contempt. You of course could go to jail (either roadside or from court) if the speeding violation was combined with other offenses such as no insurance or driving under suspension.

When Is Speeding Considered Reckless Driving?

Under South Carolina law, speeding can lead to reckless driving charges when the driver exceeds 25 MPH over the posted speed limit. South Carolina Code of Laws §56-5-2920 defines reckless driving as “any person who drives a vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that carries more consequences than a speeding ticket, even for first-time offenders. Penalties include (but aren’t limited to):

  • 6 demerit points on your license
  • Up to a $445 fine
  • Up to 30 days in jail

In order for speeding to be considered reckless driving speeding should be combined with some other unsafe driving maneuver. Such as weaving in traffic or following too closely. Speeding, by itself, should only be charged as a speeding violation regardless of speed. 

Legal Help for Speeding

Our office can help you seek a reduction or dismissal of a South Carolina speeding ticket. The first step is to call our office. When you do you'll be able to speak to a member of our intake staff who can help explain the exact process. They generally ask that you submit a copy of your ticket so that we can confirm the exact violation, court location, and court date so that we will know how best to help you. 

We are regularly hired to go to traffic court on behalf of out-of-state drivers, truck drivers, or others, to request dismissals or reductions of tickets. There are many times when it can be worth it to have a lawyer appear on your behalf. 

While there may be many opportunities to seek a reduction of the charge, South Carolina does not have any court or legal procedures allowing lawyers to "fix" tickets, or simply make them go away. All tickets are resolved in court, either by working in cooperation with or against the officer who wrote the ticket. In almost every traffic court in South Carolina, the police officer who wrote the ticket serves as the prosecutor. 

We're centrally located in Lexington, South Carolina, and so are generally able to help in the areas immediately surrounding Lexington or Columbia, South Carolina. If you're unsure where your ticket was written it's no problem for us to tell you if we can help you, or if you should look for an attorney closer to that area. 

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer free, in-office appointments with attorneys for minor traffic violations (including speeding). However for those unable to make a decision after speaking to our intake staff we do offer either telephone or in-office consultations with an attorney on a paid basis. 


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