Street Racing Explained by Tampa Attorney
Contact a criminal defense lawyer at the Sammis Law Firm if you have been arrested or given a citation (notice to appear) for the misdemeanor criminal charge of "racing" under Florida Statute 316.191 (also known as "racing on highways" or "street racing"). Street racing can involve cars, motorcycles or other motor vehicles. This criminal charge is extremely serious because it can lead to a suspension of your driver's license and a dramatic increase in your insurance premiums.
Be aware that the street racing on highways statute in Florida is extremely vague and often difficult for the prosecutor to prove. Your attorney may be able to attack the constitutionality of the statute as applied to the facts of your case by filing and litigating a motion to dismiss. Other motions such as motions to suppress may also play an important role in fighting this serious criminal charge under Florida law.
Our offices are located in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County, FL. Our criminal defense attorneys handled cases for "street racing" throughout the Tampa Bay area including Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Brooksville in Hernando County, Bartow in Polk County, and New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, Florida. Call 813-250-0500 today to speak with an attorney about the specific facts of your case to find the best way to fight this serious charge of street racing on Florida highways.
Automatic One Year Suspension for First Offense of Racing in Florida
Under the statute for racing, you will be convicted of the offense regardless of whether you enter a plea of guilty or "no contest." Additionally, you will be "convicted" of the offense even if the court agrees to "withhold adjudication." The fact that you are convicted means that the Court must impose a one year suspension of your driver's license.
Penalties and Punishment for Racing under Florida Law
First Offense of Racing - First Degree Misdemeanor
If you are the driver in a vehicle that is "racing" then you can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a fine of $500 to $1,000.00 dollars. The court can order a period of impoundment or immobilization of the driver's vehicle.
Second Offense of Racing - Second Degree Misdemeanor
If you get cited again for racing within 5 years of a prior conviction for racing, then you will be charged with a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,000.00. The court can order a period of impoundment or immobilization of the driver's vehicle. However, for the second offense, the department of motor vehicles shall revoke your driver's license for two years.
For a Second Offense Law Enforcement Can Seize Your Vehicle
If you get cited again for racing within 5 years of a prior conviction for racing, then a law enforcement agent may seize and attempt to forfeit your vehicle under the Contraband Forfeiture Act in Florida, assuming you are in a vehicle that you own.
Illegal Street Drag Race under Florida Law
The term "drag race" is generally defined under Florida law as the operation of vehicles that start out side by side and then accelerate rapidly in a competitive attempt out distance each other or to beat the other vehicle to a certain designed end point or finish line. The statute references very vague terms such as "comparing the relative speeds" or comparing the "power of acceleration" within a time limit or certain distance.
Street Race on Florida Highways as Defined Under Florida Law
The definition for the term "race" is equally vague. The statute refers to terms like "challenge to demonstrate superiority of a motor vehicle" or "competitive response to a challenge." The statute also refers to attempts to "outdistance" or "outgain" another vehicle. Other vague terms under the statute refer to tests of "physical stamina" or endurance over long distance driving routes.
Most troubling, the statute refers to a subjective standard when determining whether an individual is guilty of the offense. Consider the last line of the definition of racing which states:
A [street] 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.
Spectators to Illegal Street Racing or Drag Racing Events in Florida
Florida law even criminalizes any person who is present at a street race or drag racing event. Although the prosecutor must prove that the "spectator" knowing attended the street race as a result of an "affirmative choice." In determining whether the spectator attended the race knowingly, the prosecutor may attempt to show the following:
- The relationship between the street racers and the spectators;
- Evidence of betting or gambling on the outcome of the street race;
- Other factors which indicate the spectator knew that a street race was taking place.
Elements of Racing on Highway Charges
The statute penalizes the following individuals who allegedly participate in the alleged street racing or drag racing incident:
- The driver of the car, motorcycle or other motor vehicle;
- Any spectator;
- Anyone who facilitates, collects money, bets, coordinates, or otherwise participates in the street race or drag race;
- Anyone who "knowingly" rides as a passenger in such a race.
- Anyone who purposefully disrupts or redirects traffic to assist the street racers.
Choosing an attorney in Tampa, FL for Racing on the Streets Charges
Contact our criminal defense attorney in Tampa for any citation for the traffic misdemeanor of "racing on the highway" in Tampa or Plant City in Hillsborough County, Clearwater or St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Brooksville in Hernando County, Bartow in Polk County, New Port Richey or Dade City in Pasco County, FL. Call 813-250-0500 today to discuss your driving / traffic offenses offense.