California Vehicle Code 22351—Prima Facie Speed Law Violation
Ready for a quick Latin lesson?
There are several sections in the California vehicle code dealing with speeding. CVC 22351 is known as prima facie speeding. Prima facie essentially means “based on first impression”. What this law establishes is that there are set speed laws on highways and interstates, and that violating these set laws is inherently unlawful.
CVC Section 22351 states:
“(a) The speed of any vehicle upon a highway not in excess of the limits specified in Section 22352 or established as authorized in this code is lawful unless clearly proved to be in violation of the basic speed law.
(b) The speed of any vehicle upon a highway in excess of the prima facie speed limits in Section 22352 or established as authorized in this code is prima facie unlawful unless the defendant establishes by competent evidence that the speed in excess of said limits did not constitute a violation of the basic speed law at the time, place and under the conditions then existing.”
Your fine depends on how far over the posted maximum speed limit you were allegedly traveling. The minimum fines are listed below:
- 1-15 mph over limit—$238
- 16-25 mph over limit—$367
- Exceeding 25 mph over limit—$490
Defenses to CVC 22351
This law reads as extremely cut and draw. However, there are a couple of mitigating factors to consider:
- You were not traveling on a highway or interstate
- It is not always clear when a highway begins or ends or what constitutes an interstate. For instance, are you on a interstate when you pass the toll booth? What if the toll booth is for traffic in the opposite direction?
- The speed which the officer detected was measured or considered was while you were not on highway or interstate.
- Your speed was not above the prima facie speed or the posted speed limit.
These defenses would involve challenging the method by which the officer recorded your speed. There are a number of ways your speed is observed or recorded:
- Pacing: The officer follows the vehicle for a distance and clocks the speed by use of the officer’s speedometer
- Visual Estimation: The officer observes your speed on the roadway and estimates your speed according to their judgment
- Aircraft detection: The pilot can detect your speed by measuring how long it took you to travel between 2 points or by pacing the vehicle speed
- Radar: The most well-known speed detection device officers use to detect the speed of vehicles
- LIDAR: An abbreviation meaning “light detection and ranging”, a LIDAR device utilizes a laser to detect the speed of vehicles or vehicles traveling on the roadway
It is more conceivable for the average individual to understand how human error can factor in to challenge a speeding violation, but devices are not infallible. Any device has a margin of error and has operational requirements that an officer may be unaware of or to which the officer is unable to testify. Other factors include but are not limited to the condition of the roadway, weather, line of sight, vertical and horizontal curves in the roadway and others.
Were you cited for a speeding violation? We can likely assist. Reach out to a knowledgable member of our team to discuss your case or submit your ticket for a free review.