Might wanna watch your speed in Wyoming, partner...
June 8, 2008 11:17 AM   Subscribe

So...what's with jail terms for speeding tickets in Wyoming?

My twenty-three year old son got a call last week from one of his fellow newly graduated buddies...seems the buddy was pulled over for speeding in Wyoming and given THREE DAYS IN JAIL for it.


My son got pulled over for speeding in Colorado and just got a warning.

Granted, from what he tells me, the roads in Wyoming are long, straight, uncrowded, and very tempting to use when trying to see what your car will do. But three days in the pokey?

So, what is the scoop on this?
posted by konolia to Law & Government (20 answers total)
While some states choose to punish speeders monetarily or with jail time and suspended licenses, Wyoming Speeding Ticket Laws take advantage of all of these avenues. If you are convicted of minor speeding, like 76-80 miles per hour or speeds 66- 70 miles per hour, depending on if the speed limit is 75 or 65, will be fined 5 dollars per mile, not to exceed twenty-five dollars. If you are a serious speeder, exceeding speed limits by greater amounts, under Wyoming Speeding Ticket Laws, you could rack up some serious fines and possible jail time. On your first offense you could be handed a fine in excess of two hundred dollars and/or twenty days or less of imprisonment. If you manage to get two speeding ticket convictions in one year you can be assessed with a fine of three hundred dollars and/or thirty days in prison. If after the first two offenses and punishments you still choose to speed and get caught within a year of your first offense, under Wyoming Speeding Ticket Laws, you can be handed a fine of up to five hundred dollars and six months in jail. -- SOURCE
More info here.
posted by nitsuj at 11:29 AM on June 8, 2008

Since my son's buddy up till last week lived in Colorado Springs I am wondering if this could be his first offense...I don't think the kid was a local.

But since Son will be making his home in Wyoming weeks from now I'm glad he found out this way!
posted by konolia at 11:34 AM on June 8, 2008

Are you and your son quite sure that this was actually a sentence for speeding? Since it's 3 days, I'd assume so. But it's possible they demanded payment on the spot when he was pulled over, as he's presumably from out of state, and he didn't have the means to pay. Though it's unlikely he wouldn't even have plastic with him, or that it'd take 3 days to sort out.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:45 AM on June 8, 2008

Some states will put you in jail for major speeding. The differences in penalties once you go over, say, 95 vary widely from state to state. I got a ticket going 92 in Missouri once and the cop said if I'd been going 96 he would have arrested me.
posted by delmoi at 12:07 PM on June 8, 2008

It's not just Wyoming. Hawaii recently enacted an excessive speeding law that makes driving 30 miles over the speed limit a jailable offense. And in Colorado, it's only 25 miles over (last para) to qualify for jail time. Your son was probably "just speeding" while his friend was "excessive."
posted by zanni at 12:10 PM on June 8, 2008

I was actually IN the car when my son got pulled (taking me to the Denver airport) and in his case he was going 80-something in a 75 mph zone. I'm guessing his friend was probably going in excess of that, zanni (as I said, long straight empty roads) so that makes sense.

I live in NC and have never heard of anyone getting jailed for speeding. This blows my mind.
posted by konolia at 12:27 PM on June 8, 2008

I narrowly missed being arrested for speeding in Kentucky. If you're going more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit the police will be cranky.
posted by astruc at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Neuron, I agree with you...my son is normally very lawabiding but temptation in the form of a new (to him) vintage Camaro....need I say more? Thankfully his friend's experience is one that has gotten his attention and given him, shall I say, the correct mindset.

As an aside, I didn't know till I got there that Colorado has roads with 75mph speed limits. I gained a few more gray hairs out there...
posted by konolia at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2008

Some states also consider speeding in excess of x miles to be eligible for additional tickets for 'reckless endangerment' or the like.
posted by desuetude at 12:34 PM on June 8, 2008

This happened to a friend of my brothers in college, I think in Idaho but it could have been Wyoming. They ended up letting him out the next morning and never "officially" arrested him so it's not on his record. Sent him on his way with a stern talking to and a warning not to do it again. He was going well over 100 when arrested and it was dusk and open range land so they probably did him a favor. That was a small town though, big city cops might not be so forgiving.
posted by fshgrl at 1:39 PM on June 8, 2008

Yeah, in Oregon I remember that 25 over the limit would get you a reckless endangerment ticket, which was good for a set of matching bracelets on the roadside... however, in my experience, police officers tend not to actually use the full force of the law that they're given unless you're a real douchebag to them.

Depending on your son's friend's age and mentality, he might've tried to argue with the cop, which never has good results.
posted by SpecialK at 1:43 PM on June 8, 2008

I live in NC and have never heard of anyone getting jailed for speeding. This blows my mind.

At a certain point (varies between states, but usually around 25-30mph more than the posted limit) you're not just guilty of speeding, you're guilty of reckless endangerment. When you cross the Missouri River heading west, you're in 85mph-posted land.

Most modern cars can hit 100 mph given enough straight road and a little help from Sir Isaac (downhill). But most cars on the road in the United States are simply unstable at these speeds. Drivers don't have the proper rated tires, they have stock, mediocre brakes on their Japanese econo-boxes (at best) that likely have a nice patina of rust and wear on them, with some black goo that used to be brake fluid in the lines that hasn't been touched since the last brake job on the car five years ago. Add soft shocks, poor alignment, bad CV joints, broken springs, rust, wear and tear into the mix, and it's going to take all of your concentration to keep the car moving in a straight line once it crosses into three-digit land.

Ever see a high-speed car accident? Fucking grisly, man.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:46 PM on June 8, 2008

Most modern cars can hit 100 mph given enough straight road

A Mitsubishi Galant can hit 115 going across flat, deserted patches of South Dakota. Not that I would have any, um, direct experience or anything. (Repeating this feat this not recommended.)

it's going to take all of your concentration to keep the car moving in a straight line once it crosses into three-digit land

Agreed, agreed.
posted by gimonca at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2008

I was born and raised in Wyoming, knew plenty of folks that got speeding tickets but never anyone that got arrested for it. I got ticketed in Wyoming twice, but it was never more than ~15 mph over the speed limit. In my experience, Wyoming highway patrol is no more draconian or lenient than highway patrol in other states (granted, I've lived west of the continental divide my whole life).

As folks upthread have said, Wyoming interstates are barren and if you're dumb, you might try to see if you can get your car into three digits. I'd imagine your son's friend might have been whitewashing things a bit. He might have been doing 110, passing recklessly and all kinds of other things. He might have given the officer that pulled him over attitude. If he did spend 3 days in jail, it was almost certainly for reckless endangerment.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:58 PM on June 8, 2008

Nelsormensch, I heard from another guy from Wyoming on another site whose mom is a dispatcher. Apparently it doesn't help if your car has out of state tags-and he said that if your speed is above a certain amount-he thought above twelve but above 15 makes sense-you went to jail.

I am assuming in my son's friend's case he was around Cheyenne. Perhaps that makes a diff?
posted by konolia at 3:41 PM on June 8, 2008

I would say that punishment is something they save for truly excessive bouts of speeding, and rich college kids from out of state.

If they were jailing average residents for minor traffic offenses, the state legislature would have already been overrun with protesters.
posted by Ynoxas at 4:07 PM on June 8, 2008

I was driving through Wyoming in a car with Michigan plates and didn't realize I was coming into a town (with a 35mph limit) until I was pulled over, going about 50. I got a ticket, and the fine wasn't enormous. Then again, I was only going 50 (which, while 15 over in that situation, was not that fast for Wyoming).

Geez, I never even considered that jail time could have been a possibility! I was upset enough about the ticket!
posted by srah at 4:32 PM on June 8, 2008

didn't realize I was coming into a town (with a 35mph limit) until I was pulled over

This is par for the course throughout the Great Plains and Midwest. Any stretch of road with more than two lanes is going to have a town built around it, usually spaced out every 50 miles or so (population: 152 now that Mrs. Robinson gave birth to the twins).

You can normally spot them ahead of time because the highway will be flanked by an enormous grain silo, rising up from the sea of corn rows like a menacing battleship of concrete. Usually there's not even a stoplight to justify the lower speed limit. The cops won't be where you'd expect, either--you'd think they'd camp out right at the edge of town and wait for oncoming traffic to miss the posted speed limit, right?

Nope. What they'll do is camp out on the highway just before you leave town. Because what happens is, you get wise to the 90mph -> 25mph -> 90mph speed trap towns pretty quickly and adjust your driving to avoid getting a ticket. But these towns... they really grate on you. You secretly wish a giant tornado would follow along the highway and take out these little fuckers. Every time you have to slam on your brakes and drive 25mph. on the highway it makes you burn inside.

And what happens is, you get antsy and you fuck up.

Because when you see that sign as your heading out of town that says, "Resume Speed - 85mph." you want to jump for joy. You want to celebrate, roll down the windows and yell SO LONG, SUCKAS!.

A person has to put up with that crap for long enough, and they will instinctually accelerate when they see the sign to resume speed. Problem is, that sign marks the start of the higher speed zone. So Mr. Police officer will plant his butt right in front of the sign and get you as you accelerate to the speed limit on your way out of town. Much bigger tickets this way.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:02 PM on June 8, 2008 [4 favorites]

One day while driving through Wyoming I heard a story on the local radio about a kid from Alabama who had been put in jail for going about 100 mph. His thirty day sentence had been suspended after he wrote a long essay for the judge on the dangers of excessive speed. I was driving somewhere north of 90 mph at the time.

Many states will jail you for reckless driving, especially really excessive speed. Wyoming, for all its blather about freedom, doesn't really seem to believe in the freedom to pick your own safe speed while an a road unpopulated by anyone other than you and a cop hiding behind a billboard.
posted by caddis at 4:15 AM on June 9, 2008

I just got busted for speeding in one of the speed traps that Civil Disobedient describes so well, this one in Montana on the Wyoming border. The dickwad cop said my choices were to pay cash or go to jail. (Luckily there was enough cash in the car, as the fine was hefty.) Maybe your son's buddy didn't have cash or an ATM card?
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:43 AM on June 9, 2008

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