Driving Route 66 recently, I was pulled over by a state trooper in Arizona for speeding. He said I was doing 90 (25 over the limit) which is questionable. He issued me a $299 ticket and when questioned said it must be paid within 30 days.

Only when I looked in detail when I got home did I notice that the offence is classed as criminal, not civil, so I was careful not to admit the offence.

I have a pre-trial date with court DA soon. Any hints or suggestions and: Does Arizona or U.S. law have any jurisdiction at all in the UK with respect to this type of offence?

  • 2
    What do you mean by “any jurisdiction at all in the UK”? You did drive in Arizona at the time, didn't you?
    – Relaxed
    Jul 2, 2015 at 14:23
  • 1
    Are you asking if a US state can chase you in the UK over contempt of court?
    – Gayot Fow
    Jul 2, 2015 at 14:39
  • I doubt they'll extradite you to the USA if you don't pay, but they will likely issue a bench warrant for your arrest if you don't show up for the court date or make arrangements to pay. This could hinder you from being ever allowed into the USA again since US Customs will see that you have an active arrest warrant. Just call the court, ask if you can plead "no contest" by mail and pay the fine -- the court's website may have the document you need to do just that.
    – Johnny
    Jul 2, 2015 at 16:55
  • What was the ARS code? Do you plan to fight it? can you / will you pay the fine to not have to deal with it?
    – Jdahern
    Jul 2, 2015 at 21:44
  • FYI, in AZ, going over 85 or 20 over the limit is criminal.
    – Jdahern
    Jul 2, 2015 at 21:45

4 Answers 4


My story: UK passport holder, resident in Switzerland, driving from Houston to San Antonio and stopped doing 105mph in a 60mph section of highway.

I was given the citation and instructions, etc., but told the officer I was leaving in 2 days and may not be able to tend to it in time.

On my return to Switzerland, I called the court and asked how I could pay. I was told I could get a money order from the post office, to which I replied, "Really, the Swiss Post office will issue U.S. money orders?" After a further 15 minutes of conversation about how I was willing but unable to pay, the officer said, "Well, I guess that we ain't commin' to Switzerland to get you so just ignore it!"

I asked if I could have that in writing and he asked me to write to the court and explain my situation. 3 weeks later and I received a reply saying all was forgiven and I should have no problem re-entering the U.S. or the State of Texas.

So my advice would be to call them, and act willing to pay. Things may have changed and you may be able to pay with a credit card, but if you act willing and they are unable to accept your payment, then as long as you have a paper trail, you should be fine.

I have entered the U.S. dozens of times since and have even sponsored visas for others.

  • 3
    How long ago did you receive the speeding ticket in this story?
    – feetwet
    Jul 2, 2015 at 23:26
  • 2
    I believe it was late 2006.
    – PassKit
    Jul 3, 2015 at 0:45
  • 1
    And be really polite. You're trying to get them to exercise their "eh, whatever" discretion. Jul 7, 2015 at 18:14
  • @PassKit, great story about the friendly and reasonable Texas, +1! However, I'm afraid it won't work for Arizona -- it looks like the OP has effectively been charged with what looks like reckless-by-speed driving, as per azleg.state.az.us/ars/28/00701-02.htm.
    – cnst
    Aug 29, 2015 at 5:35
  • " to which I replied, "Really, the Swiss Post office will issue U.S. money orders?" " actually, yes, that would probably have worked. It wasn't cheap when I did it from Germany, but it's possible here and in Switzerland
    – YviDe
    Nov 23, 2015 at 18:58

It would appear that moving violations within the United States (like the speeding tickets) may result in either a civil, a misdemeanor or a criminal charge, depending on the state and the speed.

I would indeed recommend you try to follow PassKit's advise, to see if you could get an exception for being based abroad.

Otherwise, some states, like California, let you have a trial by mail (or sometimes even telephone!), where you are not required to be physically present within the courtroom to defend your case.

If the state where you got the ticket requires personal appearance to fight the ticket (e.g., if you were charged with reckless driving, including through reckless-by-speed statutes), you could hire an attorney who will represent your interests.

Note that if you decide to just pay the ticket (thus pleading guilty or no-contest), make sure that your local jurisdiction (where you have the driver licence from) would not revoke your licence upon being informed of your violation and conviction. For example, if you were to have a North Carolina licence, and you plead guilty to doing 81mph in an 80mph zone (maybe through a plea bargain, since no state is supposed to be giving tickets less than 5mph over the limit), and the court does forward the conviction to NCDOT DMV, then NCDOT DMV would have no choice but to automatically revoke your licence due to their ridiculous reckless-by-speed laws (many states have speed limits higher than what the reckless-by-speed speeds in Virginia and North Carolina are set at!).

A good resource in regards to the speed limits would be http://www.mit.edu/~jfc/laws.html.

And, as you may note, doing 85mph or above in Arizona, is automatically what is essentially a reckless driving charge (sometimes known as "reckless-by-speed" in other states that explicitly classify it as reckless driving, such as Virginia and North Carolina), which is indeed why your citation suggests that there's a criminal case against you! (Which likely would only have been civil had you been clocked at 84mph or below.)


A. A person shall not:

3. Exceed eighty-five miles per hour in other locations.

B. A person who violates subsection A of this section is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.

C. A person charged with a violation of this section may not be issued a civil complaint for a violation of section 28-701 if the civil complaint alleges a violation arising out of the same circumstances.


A. A sentence of imprisonment for a misdemeanor shall be for a definite term to be served other than a place within custody of the state department of corrections. The court shall fix the term of imprisonment within the following maximum limitations:

3. For a class 3 misdemeanor, thirty days.

I'm afraid you might have no choice but to hire an attorney! And for the future, pay visits to states that don't have reckless-by-speed laws on their books!



Yes. You should care.

There are at least two ways you could get into trouble.

Problem #1: Extradition

The U.S. has extradition treaties with the UK and Switzerland for non-death-penalty related criminal offenses. Of which, criminal speeding is one. However, as a practical matter, I would estimate it is unlikely you would ever be extradited for such a crime. Although, it is a theoretical possibility with a greater-than-zero probability of occurring.

Problem #2: Warrant plus arrest upon re-entry

The second, and far more likely scenario in my opinion is the following. Say you ignore the matter. If you miss your court date you get an automatic bench warrant issued for your arrest for "Failure to Appear." This goes on your criminal record and if you ever re-enter the country and are stopped for any minor offense, let's say, a missing tail light. If you get pulled over, they will likely run you for outstanding warrants and take you to jail on the spot if you have a "failure to appear" bench warrant on your record.

So, yes. I would handle the matter. That said, you probably need to hire a local attorney to advise you on what to do. I believe they have procedures in place to handle people in your situation (i.e., foreign residents permanently out-of-the-country).

  • 1
    You have taken the safe-but-overprotective approach in this answer. For example, I doubt this is an extraditable offence if there was no arrest on the spot. For the same reason it probably wouldn't even qualify for interstate rendition if a warrant were issued, which means only if stopped in Arizona would he face arrest. However I don't know how the U.S. Customs Border Patrol deals with individuals it finds trying to enter the country who have such minor open warrants.
    – feetwet
    Aug 29, 2015 at 14:51
  • It's also worth noting that in some states ALL speeding charges on the highways, even 5mph on an interstate, are criminal offenses; that's the case in Wyoming, for example. And, indeed, such a bench warrant from Arizona would likely only land you in jail were you to be stopped at Arizona again, not any other state. Of course, the fact that such warrant exists might prevent you from landing in any other state in the first place, if you want to enter the country as a non-citizen.
    – cnst
    Aug 29, 2015 at 21:29

(not a lawyer... so...) Unless you have a lot of time and money to try to prove you did not drive about the speed limit (and that is not a warranty you will win your case).

Contact the local court and discuss the situation BEFORE you leave back to the UK.

Pay and be done with it.

If you decide not to pay and fly back to the UK, your name will probably land on a list you do not want to and if you decide to fly back to the USA, you will probably be arrested for not showing up in court.

It is one of those situation where there is no winning scenario for you; cut your losses.

  • 2
    Who would do the arresting? The CBP?
    – Gayot Fow
    Jul 2, 2015 at 14:42
  • 1
    Your alternative is to get an Arizona lawyer to handle your case. This may be worth it to avoid the criminal conviction. By the way, someone I know spent 3 nights in jail for speeding in Virginia, so things could be worse.
    – DJClayworth
    Jul 2, 2015 at 15:14
  • Yes, in Virginia, going over 15 or 20 mph over the limit, or above 80 or 85 mph regardless of speed, is automatically a reckless driving offense, for which jail time is possible; hiring a lawyer would be a wise decision in such case
    – cnst
    Aug 29, 2015 at 4:50
  • To clarify -- paying a reckless driving ticket by pleading guilty is NEVER a good idea. "Pay and be done with it." is the most misinformed advice there is.
    – cnst
    Aug 29, 2015 at 5:57

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