Street Racing: The Discrepancies between the statutory definitions and the jury instruction’s definition.

What am I accused of doing wrong?

The “what am I accused of” question facing a Defendant charged with Racing on Highway [street racing] is not an easy question to answer.  First, there are a multitude of ways (ten by my count) in which you can violate the prohibitive paragraph (s.316.191(2)(a)1., F.S.).  Then there is a discrepancy between the statute’s definitions and the jury instructions definitions (and as we all know people are not noticed of the jury instructions).  And, unless challenged, the prosecutor will argue and the jury will rely on the standardized jury instructions given to determine guilt or innocence.

Although there are many problem’s with the “Racing on Highway” statute, let’s take a look at the problem with the jury instructions.  The statute, of which the people are noticed, defines “race” as:

“Race” means the use of one or more motor vehicles in competition, arising from a challenge to demonstrate superiority of a motor vehicle or driver and the acceptance or competitive response to that challenge, either through a prior arrangement or in immediate response, in which the competitor attempts to outgain or outdistance another motor vehicle, to prevent another motor vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of another motor vehicle or motor vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long-distance driving routes. A race may be prearranged or may occur through a competitive response to conduct on the part of one or more drivers which, under the totality of the circumstances, can reasonably be interpreted as a challenge to race.

– Emphasis added…

However, a jury is read the standardized jury instruction, which is a significantly different definition:

Race means a competition involving the use of one or more motor vehicles in an attempt to outgain or outdistance another motor vehicle, to prevent another motor vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of another motor vehicle or motor vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long distance driving routes.

Note that the bold portions found in the statutes are missing.  Isn’t that language important?  Go back and reread the portions left out of the jury instruction and you will see clearly that the jury instruction makes it quite a bit easier for the state to prove their case because their is less to prove.

The definition for “drag race” is also different.  The statute defines drag race as:

Drag race means the operation of two or more motor vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other, or the operation of one or more motor vehicles over a common selected course, from the same point to the same point, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such motor vehicle or motor vehicles within a certain distance or time limit.

The jury is given this definition:

Drag race means the operation of two or more motor vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other, or the operation of one or more motor vehicles to the same point, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such motor vehicle or motor vehicles within a certain distance or time limit.

Another confusing thing that I have debated judges about is the mixing of “drag race” and “acceleration contest” in one definition.  I believe it should be separated into two definitions (since there is an “or” within the definition):

Drag race:

Drag race means the operation of two or more motor vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such motor vehicles within a certain distance.

This seems like the definition of a drag race to me.  Two cars trying to reach a certain distance before the other car.

Acceleration contest:

Acceleration contest means the operation of one or more motor vehicles over a common selected course, from the same point to the same point, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of such motor vehicle or motor vehicles within a certain time limit.

I’ve never heard of an “acceleration contest” before this statute came out but doesn’t the above definition make more sense.  Two or more cars timing how fast they travel a specific distance to see who can travel the distance the fastest.  Maybe I am way off on what the legislature meant regarding these two activities but grammatically I think I have discerned it correctly.  Unfortunately, I have yet to get a judge to agree even though to me it is obvious (which is probably why).

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