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Presumed Speed Limits

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What Is a "Presumed" Speed Limit?

When you are charged with exceeding a "presumed" speed limit, you are alleged to have driven at an unsafe speed. A "presumed" speed limit takes into account the conditions at the time you were ticketed. You may have a good chance of prevailing if you can prove that you were only slightly over the speed limit and the road conditions (e.g., weather, traffic) were good. However, the "presumed" speed limit is a double-edged sword. If the conditions on the road are so bad that even driving at the speed limit is unsafe, you may be ticketed (for driving at or below the limit).

Are There Any Defenses?

If you are charged with exceeding a "presumed" speed limit, you may:

  • Claim that you were not exceeding the posted speed limit
  • Claim that, even if exceeding the posted limit, you were driving safely given the conditions at the time

Your best argument will be that although you were driving over the posted limit, it was safe to do so considering the highway conditions. You should argue that you were driving at a reasonable speed. However, you must remember that you have the burden of proving that your speed was safe and prudent. Police officers rarely write tickets for those who speed less than 5 mph over the limit (it is easy to prove that your speed was safe at that speed), but the burden of proof becomes much more difficult the more you exceeded the limit.

What Should I Do if I Believe I Have Not Broken the Law?

If you believe that you have not exceeded a "presumed" speed limit, there are ways in which you can build your case:

  • Return to the scene and take pictures at the same time and day of the week that you were cited - try to establish that the road was straight and that there was good visibility
  • Diagram the road, showing the location of your vehicle, the officer's, and any others
  • If there were a lot of other cars on the road, you could argue that everyone was exceeding the limit; you had to follow suit or endanger yourself by driving slower than the flow of traffic

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with Traffic Laws?

It may be helpful to consult a lawyer who has experience with traffic laws. Traffic laws vary by state and by jurisdiction so a local attorney would be best suited in informing you of the laws.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-07-2011 04:33 PM PST

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