Absolute versus Presumed Speeding Violation Limits

Speed limits in the United States vary from region to region depending on the specific laws of the state, city, county, or other municipal government that maintains jurisdiction over that given area.

Originally, speed limits were intended to give drivers an idea of the acceptable and common speed for a given road under presumably clear conditions. Gradually, posted speed limits were less advisories and suggestions to drivers than they were absolute speed limits, which meant that any speed in excess of what was posted would be considered a violation.

When a driver is charged with exceeding a set speed limit in a state with an absolute speed limit, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the vehicle was traveling at a rate in excess of that speed, and that under no circumstances are greater speeds permitted in the area in which the violation took place.

Presumed, or prima facie, speed limits mean that a driver is assumed to have broken the law by going in excess of the speed limit posted, and the driver has a burden to prove that the speed was safe for the road and traffic conditions in spite of exceeding the posted speed limit. Although this shifts the burden of proof from the state to the motorist, courts have not found them unconstitutional.


States with Presumed Speed Limits

Some examples of states that use presumed speed limits include:

  • California, where the law states that “no person shall drive at a speed greater than is reasonable having due regard for weather, visibility, traffic,” and so forth;
  • New York laws cite that “no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable with regard to actual and potential hazards;” and
  • Pennsylvania has a presumed speed law that says “no person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable under the conditions nor at a speed that will prevent the driver from bringing his vehicle to a stop within assured clear distance.”

These are not the only presumed speed limit states, but their examples provide a reasonable basis for understanding how these presumed speed limit laws work.

In these states, the prosecutor must prove that the speed at which the driver was traveling was unsafe and unreasonable given the atmosphere and circumstances at the time the infraction was cited by a police officer or highway patrolman. The driver may rebut this by providing evidence to the contrary that reasonably demonstrates that the speed was not unsafe.

The prosecution can, however, use the evidentiary rule to their favor by proving that the driver was traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, which constitutes a violation of the basic speed law.

So while you may be able to argue that traveling at 80 miles per hour in Miami, FL, was not unsafe given that the road was empty and your visibility was unhindered, the prosecution may still use the fact that the posted speed limit was 50 miles per hour against you.

Because these speeding violation and reckless driving citations are often so much more complex than the average driver anticipates, it’s crucial that you reach out to a team of defense attorneys who thoroughly understand the intricacies of each case.


Get Legal Help from our Traffic and Criminal Defense Attorneys

The cost of traffic and criminal defense attorneys can be far less than the cost of your reckless driving ticket. Our firm offers a free consultation, so you have the chance to learn more about us and our practice before retaining our services. We can also tell you exactly what you’ll be charged ahead of time and give you an honest opinion about the potential challenges of your case.

Never hire an attorney who promises a positive outcome as no lawyer can guarantee how your case will be resolved. If you have recently been cited with reckless driving in Miami, FL, contact us today at 877-663-5110.