Almost everyone with a driver's license has exceeded the speed limit at least once. The more often you speed, the more likely you are to get a speeding ticket. When that happens, you will have to pay the price, often in more ways than one. State laws differ on how speeding tickets are handled, but for the most part speeding is considered a violation or infraction (i.e., not a crime). If you plead guilty, you will have to pay a fine but generally won't face jail time -- unless there are unusual, aggravating factors in your case.

Speeding Ticket Fines and Fees

Fines for speeding vary widely by state. In general, fines average between about $50 and $300, although they can be much higher in some states. Many states have a tiered system of fines based on how much you exceeded the posted speed limit. It's not uncommon for the fine to increase for every 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit you were driving. For example, in New York, fines for a first offense range from $45 to $150 for speeding up to 10 mph over the limit and can reach $600 for speeding by 31 mph or more. Florida has a similar system, with fees ranging from about $80 to $300, depending on the jurisdiction. Many states also have higher fines or additional fines for things like: - Repeat offenses - Speeding in a work area or construction zone - Speeding in a school zone - Speeding in a residential district

Some states impose fees on top of your fines, such as an administrative processing fee and driver assessment responsibility fees. If you are eligible to take traffic school to keep the ticket off your record, this carries a cost too. On the other hand, some jurisdictions impose a lower fine if you go to traffic school. States also differ in the speeds at which the offense changes from simple speeding (an infraction) to reckless driving (a misdemeanor). This is important, because reckless driving comes with significantly higher fines and potential jail time. For example, in Virginia speeding 20+ mph over a posted speed limit is automatically considered reckless driving and carries fines up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail. In Illinois, driving 31 to 40 mph over the posted limit is a Class B misdemeanor, with fines of up to $1,500 and up to 180 days in jail. In other states, a reckless driving charges lies within the discretion of the officer based on the situation's unique circumstances. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your state's traffic laws, so you know the consequences and costs of speeding.

Indirect Costs of a Speeding Ticket

In addition to fines and fees, you may face other consequences when you are convicted of a speeding ticket. - Points: Many states assess points against your license for moving violations. Some states assign one point for each violation, while others use a system of increasing points for increasingly serious violations, including increased speed. In New York, motorists can get 3 to 11 points for one speeding ticket. If you get too many points within a certain time--generally 18 months to three years--your license can be suspended.

  • Convictions: Others states keep track of the number of traffic convictions on your record and impose suspensions for too many.

  • Increased insurance costs: One speeding ticket won't necessarily raise your insurance rates (although it could if it is a very high speed or if you have other convictions and/or accidents on your driving record), depending on your state's laws and your insurance company's policies. Some companies allow you one moving violation within a certain time, often three years, before raising your rates. If you are a chronic offender, you could have trouble getting insurance, and the price will be very high.

  • Suspended license: In addition to the point system, some states have even stricter rules for suspending the license of someone under 18, or 21 in some cases. In those states, if you're under the age limit you could have your license suspended for just one or two moving violations within a set time, often one or two years. Similarly, if you are on probation or have a restricted license, then you can be suspended for even one speeding conviction.

  • Jail: Although judges don't usually give it, some states do have provisions for a few days in jail even for minor speeding. For example, New York lets judges impose up to 15 days of jail time for speeding 11 to 30 mph over the limit. Further, when in some states, a speeding ticket is automatically treated as reckless driving, a misdemeanor, the chances of jail time increase significantly.

As you can see, a speeding ticket can become very expensive--both in terms of money and loss of freedoms--very quickly. Your best option to avoid these is to not speed. But if you do, and you get caught, find out all you can about what that ticket will cost you. If you are facing a suspended license or jail time, you should consult with (if not hire) a lawyer who is experienced in vehicle and traffic law.