racing on highway criminal defense

Racing on the Highway

Florida street racing was a civil traffic ticket up until 2002. Now, the law not only criminalizes street racing, it also requires minimum mandatory penalties. One of those penalties is a one year driver’s license suspension. Fortunately, there are defenses to many of the situations that can cause you to be arrested for racing.

Florida Street Racing

In Florida the Racing On Highway law does not just refer to highways. In fact, it really doesn’t refer to anything at all. It is a blurry hodge-podge of prohibitions that can be unscrupulously applied to just about any driving situation. This is the dangerous nature of this charge. It also happens to be its achilles heel.

As written the crime of Racing on the Highway (section 316.191, Fla. Stat.) means the driving of any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, in:

  • any race;
    • in which the competitor attempts to outgain or outdistance another motor vehicle (called passing another vehicle),
    • to prevent another motor vehicle from passing (actually a civil infraction),
    • 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 (truck drivers?).
  • speed competition or contest (undefined);
  • drag race or acceleration contest (defined);
  • test of physical endurance (undefined);
  • exhibition of speed or acceleration (undefined);
  • or for the purpose of making a speed record (undefined);

… on any highway, roadway, or parking lot within the state of Florida. In addition you cannot in any manner:

  • participate in;
  • coordinate;
  • facilitate;
  • or collect moneys;

… at any location for any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition. Nor can you knowingly:

  • ride as a passenger;
  • purposefully cause the movement of traffic to slow or stop;

… for any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition.

The Obvious Drag Race

It you happen to be out late one night on an empty street where a crowd has come together so that you can line your car up, side by side, and race another car when someone says “go,” …well that’s pretty obviously a drag race. Usually, law enforcement has someone watching, identifying the car and driver and the report reads pretty much like something from the NHRA. This is not good.

The Less Obvious Street Race

On the other hand,… two cars driving fast (what do we call that? Oh, right – speeding) or a car that takes off fast from a stop light may get you arrested for racing but proving it becomes a little more arduous.

Write Down What Happened

So if you have been accused of street racing it is very important to remember what occurred before, during, and after you were stopped, particularly what was said. Take the time to try and write down what you remember happened and what was said – what was asked, your reply, any conversation with the police. Write this down as soon after the stop as possible.

This will hopefully help in your defense.

Penalties If Found Guilty For Racing On Highway

Florida street racing carries with it the following penalties only if you enter a plea of guilty or no-contest or have been found guilty after a trial:

  • It is always a first degree misdemeanor.
    • Up to 1-year in jail.
    • Up to 1-year probation.
    • Up to $1,000.00 fine (unless specified by statute).
  • First offense requires a $500 to $1,000 fine.
  • The Department [DMV] is required to suspend your license for 1-year on the first conviction.
  • Multiple convictions for Racing carry progressively harsher penalties and longer suspensions.

You Were Not Racing If…

Let’s look at some common reasons people are charged with Florida street racing when they weren’t racing. You are not racing if you were only doing the following things:

  • Speeding.
  • Accelerating fast from a stop.
  • Accelerating fast from a prior speed.
  • Aggressively passing another vehicle.
  • Screeching your tires.
  • Weaving in and out of traffic.

None of these things, by the way, are greatly appreciated by most other drivers or anyone over the age of, say, 40 or who have kids. Basically, most people that will be available to be on your jury. Oh, and almost all judges are over the age of 40, have kids, and drive. So this may be a wake up call. However, these are not acts that necessarily involve racing or, by themselves, can prove racing.

Should You Hire An Attorney

Short answer – yes. You are looking at losing your license for a year. I don’t even want to know what multipliers the insurance companies use for this. Unless you were obviously drag racing late at night anywhere other than the Bithlo race track (where, by the way, you can drag race/trash your car legally), then you need to hire a lawyer. These cases usually require a trial to make them go away.

Want More Information?

Additional Information:
Street Racing: The Discrepancies between statute and jury instructions.
Criminal Case resolutions.

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