What Does the Law Say About Racing on Highways?
- November 4th, 2019
- Bruce Denson
- Comments Off on What Does the Law Say About Racing on Highways?
In 1978, in Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen sang-
“Tonight, tonight the strip’s just right
I want to blow ’em off in my first heat
Summer’s here and the time is right
For racin’ in the street”
Back then, a 1969 Chevy with a 396 had some serious acceleration and there were dangers that came along with street racing. As cars got lighter and faster those dangers increased and the Florida Legislature has now intervened to cut down on street racing.
Florida Statute 316.191 makes it illegal to
(a) Drive any motor vehicle (including motorcycles) in any race, on a roadway, or parking lot;
(b) In any manner participate in, coordinate, facilitate, or collect money at any location for any such race;
(c) Knowingly ride as a passenger in any such race; or
(d) Purposefully cause traffic to slow or stop for any such race.
Florida’s courts have held the Racing on Highways statute cannot be applied unless there are vehicles competing with each other. Reaves v. State, 979 So. 2d 1066, 1072 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). And Florida law defines racing as a competition involving the use of one or more vehicles including:
- A speed competition;
- Drag race;
- An exhibition of speed;
- An exhibition of acceleration;
- Outgain or outdistance another vehicle;
- Prevent another vehicle from passing;
- Arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle; or
- Test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long distances.
That’s a lot of words by legislators to say racing is what we commonly think of as racing.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR STREET RACING
Racing on Highways as a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in jail. In reality, barring an accident, death or injury, you are not going to go to jail for racing. However, there are some severe consequences to this charge-
- Fines– For a first offense, there is a minimum $500 fine and a maximum fine of $1,000. For a second offense, the minimum fine is $1,000, and the maximum fine is $3,000.
- Driver’s License Revocation– Under Section 316.191(3)(a), Florida Statutes, the DMV must revoke your driving privileges for a minimum period of one year upon conviction. For subsequent offenses, the revocation period can increase to four years.
- Possible Vehicle Impoundment/Immobilization– Police may impound the vehicle for a period of 30 business days if the officer has taken a person into custody and the person being arrested is the registered owner or co-owner of the motor vehicle. The trial court can also enter an order of impoundment or immobilization as a condition of incarceration or probation.
- Possible Vehicle Forfeiture– A vehicle used in violation of the statute within five years of a prior conviction for racing may be seized and forfeited under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. See Section 316.191(6), referring to 932.701, Florida Statutes.
As you can see, racing is expensive and is going to impact your ability to drive and keep your car on the road.
A WORD OF CAUTION
In Florida’s Racing on Highways statute, the term “conviction” means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld. Even if you negotiate with the prosecutor for a withhold of adjudication of guilt, you are still considered “convicted” and will suffer the same consequences as a person who is adjudicated guilty of the offense. Because of the mandatory driver’s license suspension, it is a good idea to consult with a criminal defense attorney to address any charge of racing in Florida.
A WORD OF HOPE
Often we are able to either defend the charges on the facts or negotiate with the State Attorney to amend the charge to a lesser offense. This can lower the fine and avoid the license suspension. Again, if you are facing a Racing on Highways charge in Pinellas County, give us a call. [See Our Video]
The Denson Firm