On film or in television, racing may look compelling to some because of how exhilarating it looks. However, the state of Florida aggressively prosecutes people who have been charged with racing. The purpose of this is to deter drivers from racing since it can lead to extremely serious property damage and injury. The statutes have even extended criminal penalties to spectators who were simply watching the race.
Despite the best intentions of the Florida legislature, racing is difficult to define and prove at trial. In many of these cases, without a designated starting point and finishing line it is difficult for the prosecutor to prove that any race occurred. Important defenses can exist in these cases to help the person charged avoid any criminal liability for the incident. If you or someone you know has been charged with racing, then it’s imperative you seek experienced legal counsel.
If you've been charged with this racing on a roadway or highway, it is important not to underestimate its consequences. The attorneys of Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can use their extensive traffic violation experience to defend your future and your record. With our years of practice, we can structure an effective defense to get you the best possible result for your case.
When facing criminal charges, it’s important you get started on your defense as soon as possible. Call us at (561) 557-8686 to set up your first consultation free. Let us sit with you and explain your legal options in further detail. We aggressively fight on behalf of those in cities such as Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, and Boynton Beach.
Overview of Racing Charges in FL
People frequently confuse the crimes of racing with reckless or careless driving since both involve driving negligently to the point it puts the public’s safety at risk. What separates the two crimes is racing must involve some sort of competition between two or more vehicles. The competition can range in speed, endurance, or an exhibition of acceleration between two or more parties. Careless or reckless charges don’t incorporate any type of competition.
Florida Statutes Section 316.191 defines racing as the following:
The state of Florida does have a distinct definition for “drag racing” versus standard racing charges. Florida defines standard “racing” as the use of one or more motor vehicles used in competition arising from a challenge, either through a prior agreement or in the heat of the moment, in which one person attempts to outdistance another, test the endurance of the drivers, prevent the drivers from passing, test the physical stamina of the drivers or to arrive at a given destination that was agreed upon first. Florida law states a person can be charged for races that are prearranged or those that occur spontaneously.
The term drag racing refers to the operation of two or more motor vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance one another. For the event to be labeled a drag race it must occur at the same point to the same point for the purpose of comparing the two vehicle’s speed and/or acceleration within a specific time limit or distance.
What you might not know is that spectators of races may face a type of administrative consequence. A spectator under Florida law is any person who was present to the race by their own volition and while viewing the race understood it was illegal. The court will determine if a person is a spectator after they examine their relationship between the racer and the individual such as evidence of betting on the race’s outcome or gambling related to the race.
Florida determines the penalties for racing based on if you ever been previously convicted of the crime in the past. Racing in Florida is a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include the following:
If you have a prior conviction and are charged again with racing within five years, then the court will enhance your fine. It will instead be no less than $2,000, but no more than $5,000. In addition, you will face a license revocation for up to four years.
Spectators to races will face a noncriminal traffic infraction, commonly referred to as a moving violation. Admitting guilt to be a knowing spectator of a race will result in points being added to your license. While this isn’t as serious as a criminal conviction, if you accumulate enough points on your record your license could be suspended for up to one year.
Police officers are lawfully allowed to arrest you without a warrant if they have reasonable suspicion you have been racing. After an arrest, it’s common for law enforcement to enter an order of impoundment or immobilization as a condition as your incarceration or probation as well. This impoundment can create a major struggle for those who rely on their car to perform everyday tasks and commute to work.
As a condition of your arrest, you will be required to pay the cost and fees of your impoundment or immobilization. These expenses can include the cost of notifying you that the vehicle was impounded under a court order. Florida law states law enforcement maintain the right to impound a person arrested of racing for up to 30 days. If you have a second racing conviction, then your vehicle could be seized and forfeited to the state of Florida thanks to the Contraband Forfeiture Act.
Racing Laws in Florida – Visit the official website for the Florida Statutes to learn more about racing, drag racing and other competitive speeding violations. Access the site to learn the penalties, elements of the crime and possible exceptions to racing charges.
Driver Improvement Schools – Visit the official website for the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department (FLHSMV) and learn more about the driver’s improvement school. If you’re convicted of racing, it’s likely the judge will require you to attend driver’s schools. Learn more about how to sign up, what’s expected and how long it takes to finish a course.
Racing convictions are more common than you may think. In Palm Beach County, there were 29 street racing citations issued in 2012, with 69 written in Broward County. If you are one of the many individuals charged with this serious criminal offense, then don't face the judge alone. The goal in many of these cases is getting the racing charged dropped down to something less serious such as a civil infraction for careless driving or even reckless driving that does not require the driver's license suspension.
Contact a criminal defense lawyer at Meltzer & Bell, P.A., to gain an experienced legal guide for your case. Our attorneys provide aggressive representation to protect our clients charged with all types of crimes including racing. You can call us at (561) 557-8686 to set up your first consultation free. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. accepts clients throughout the Palm Beach County area and surrounding areas including St. Lucie County, Broward County and Martin County
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