The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
December 21, 1994 94-R-1025
FROM: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked whether it is accurate that someone from another state who is arrested for going over 60 miles per hour on a highway that is not a limited access highway can pay a fine by mail while a Connecticut resident who does the same thing must make a court appearance.
Going between 61 and 85 miles per hour on a road that is not a limited access highway is one of several classifications of speeding offenses. Some of these acts are infractions and some are violations. This specific one is a violation. Infractions can be handled through a mail response procedure under which the person can either pay the fine and, in effect, plead nolo contendere to the charge, or plead not guilty and be given an opportunity to appear in court.
Violations require a court appearance, except that the law applies the infraction procedure to certain designated speeding violations. Going 61-85 mph on a non-limited access highway is not one of these. A Connecticut resident who commits this violation must appear in court. But most of the states are parties to an interstate compact under which a violator from one party state does not have to return to another party state in which he committed a violation in order to appear in court. The person can mail the fine, but if he should not respond to the ticket, his license is suspended in his home state. A Connecticut resident would have the same privilege in another compact state.
There are several classifications of speeding violations under Connecticut law, depending on the actual speed, the type of road, and whether or not the vehicle involved is a truck. Some are classified as infractions, others as violations.
The law prohibits someone from driving on any road (1) at a speed that endangers the life of any vehicle occupant or (2) at more than 55 miles per hour (Sec. 14-219(a)). The penalty for driving more than 55 mph is an infraction with the fine graduated according to the number of miles per hour over the limit. The penalty for driving at a speed that endangers the life of a vehicle occupant is a fine of $100-150 ($150-200 if the vehicle is a truck).
The second provision of the speeding law prohibits someone from driving (1) on a multi-lane limited access highway at a speed greater than 55 mph, but not over 70 mph or (2) on any other highway at more than 55 mph, but not over 60 mph (Sec. 14-219(b)). The penalty for this is an infraction as long as the vehicle is not a truck, and a fine of $100-150 if it is a truck.
The third provision of the speeding law prohibits someone from driving (1) on a multi-lane limited access highway at more than 70 mph, but not over 85 mph or (2) on any other highway at more than 60 mph, but not over 85 mph (Sec 14-219(c)). The penalty for this is a fine of $100-150 for vehicles other than trucks, and a fine of $150-200 for trucks.
Anyone who drives at more than 85 mph regardless of the type of road can be prosecuted for reckless driving rather than for speeding. The same is true for driving at any speed that endangers the life of anyone other than the vehicle operator (Sec. 14-222).
ADJUDICATION OF SPEEDING VIOLATIONS
Motor vehicle infractions, including speeding infractions, are able to be handled through the mail. But the speeding law also specifies that for certain of the speeding violations, notably: (1) driving at a speed that endangers a vehicle occupant, (2) driving a truck on a multi-lane limited access highway at a speed between of 56 to 70 mph, and (3) driving a truck or any other vehicle on a multi-lane limited access highway at 71 to 85 mph the violator must follow the same procedures mandated by Sec. 51-164n, including the ability to pay fines by mail.
This procedure allows someone to either pay the fine and fees specified on the summons by mail or enter a plea of not guilty and make a court appearance. Paying the fine by mail is considered a plea of nolo contendere. Nonresidents cannot avail themselves of this option and must post either a cash bond or a guaranteed bail bond certificate, except if the charge is for a motor vehicle infraction or one of the three speeding violations for which the mail option is provided. This option is limited to residents of those states which have reciprocal agreements with Connecticut with respect to driver license suspensions.
The situation involving a driver who is stopped for going over 60 mph, but not over 85 mph on a non-limited access highway falls outside of this procedure. It is designated as a violation and not an infraction, but it is not one of the three violations specified above for which the mail-in option is specified. Thus, if the person who commits this violation is a Connecticut resident, he must make a court appearance. But a nonresident does not have to appear so long as he is from a state which is a party to the Interstate No-Bail Compact.
A total of 39 states, including Connecticut, and the District of Columbia are parties to the compact. The compact allows residents of member states to avoid having to return to a state in which they have received a motor vehicle summons unless they intend to challenge the charges. If the nonresident pays the required fine by the date specified on the summons, the case is resolved. If the nonresident fails to pay the fine or respond to the ticket, his license is subject to suspension in his own state under the provisions of the compact just as if the failure to respond had occurred in his home state. The purpose of this process is to avoid inconveniencing someone by making them come back to the state for a somewhat minor offense. Although this may not seem fair to the Connecticut resident, it actually is in that the Connecticut person is afforded the same privilege in other compact states.