The sight of blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror and the realization that you are going way above the posted speed limit causes everyone to break out in a cold sweat. The faster you’re going, the more likely it is that you’ll find yourself spontaneously worrying about things like, can I be arrested and lose my driver’s license for speeding in California?
Technically, the answer is no. Speeding by itself isn’t a criminal offense, but that doesn’t mean that a traffic stop that starts out as a speeding offense won’t end in an arrest.
The first thing the office is going to want to know is whether you’ve been drinking. They will make a quick assessment of this as soon as they approach your car and start speaking to you. If they smell alcohol or feel that you’re behaving like you’re under the influence, they will conduct a field sobriety test. If you fail, you’ll be arrested. If you’re convicted of a DUI in California, you will lose your driver’s license for a period of time. How long you’re driving privileges are revoked depends on the judge’s sentence and whether it’s your first DUI.
If the officer happens to see something illegal, such as a weapon or drug paraphernalia on your passenger seat, they can use this visual evidence as an excuse to search your entire car. If they find additional illegal items, you’ll be arrested.
One of the most common reasons for a person to be arrested after they’ve been pulled over for speeding is a bench warrant. After they pull you over, the police run a quick criminal background check. If this background check reveals that you have an outstanding bench warrant, you’ll be arrested and required to deal with whatever matter the bench warrant involves.
While you can’t be arrested for speeding in California, the police do have one trick up their sleeves. If they feel that your speeding or the manner you were driving was reckless. While not all reckless driving ticket result in an arrest, the officer does have the right to arrest you if they feel that you’re driving in a manner that’s a danger to society. In California, reckless driving is a misdemeanor. The first time you’re convicted of reckless driving, you could be sentenced to spend up to ninety days in a county jail and fined up to $1,000.