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Racing on a Highway

Attorney for Racing on South Florida Highways

The Florida legislature has deemed street racing and other speed competitions on the roadway to be extremely dangerous, not only for the participants in the race and its spectators but also for innocent third parties. As a result, the Florida Legislature has enacted severe penalties for these criminal charges.

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.

Palm Beach County Highway Racing Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with this serious offense, 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. 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.

Racing Charges Overview

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Elements of Drag Racing in Florida

Under § 316.191(3)(a), Fla. Stat., the criminal offense of Racing on a Highway requires the prosecutor with the State Attorney's Office prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person accused:

  • drove a motor vehicle in a race;
  • participated, coordinated, facilitated, collected monies at any location for a race;
  • knowingly rode as a passenger in a race; or
  • purposefully caused moving traffic to slow or stop for a race.
  • In addition to a race, the statute also applies to:
  • an attempt to make a speed record;
  • an exhibition of speed or acceleration;
  • a test of physical endurance;
  • a speed competition or contest; or
  • a drag race or acceleration contest.

Despite the fact that the title of the statute refers to "racing on a highway" the statute also applies to races on a roadway or parking lot.

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Penalties for Participating in Street Races

Under § 316.191(3)(a), a first offense of racing is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree. The mandatory fine is $500 to $1,000. Additionally, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) must revoke the driver license of a person convicted for 1 year.

A second conviction for racing on highways within 5 years of a prior violation is charged as a misdemeanor of the first degree with a mandatory fine of $1,000 to $3,000. If a conviction occurs, then the DHSMV must revoke the driver license of that person for 2 years.

A third conviction for racing on highways within 5 years after the date of a prior violation is a misdemeanor of the first degree with a mandatory fine of $2,000 to $5,000. The DHSMV must also revoke the driver license of that person for 4 years.

Under § 316.191(4)(a) if a person is charged with being a spectator at any drag race then the person can be issued a civil or noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in Chapter 318.

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Jury Instruction 28.5(a) for Racing on a Highway

The jury instructions for racing on a highway are listed as 28.5. Those instructions were originally adopted in 2009 [6 So.3d 574] and amended in 2012 [95 So.3d 868] and 2013. See In re Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases--Report No. 2012-05, 131 So. 3d 755 (Fla. 2013).

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Definitions in Florida's Drag Race Statute

Under Florida Statute § 316.191(1)(b), the term "drag race" is defined to mean 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.

Under Florida Statute § 316.191(1)(c) the term "race" means the use of one or more motor vehicles:

  • to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long-distance driving routes;
  • to arrive at a given destination ahead of another motor vehicle or motor vehicles;
  • in competition, arising from a challenge to demonstrate superiority of a motor vehicle or driver; or
  • 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.

The standard jury instructions provide that "[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 circumstances, can reasonably be interpreted as a challenge to race."

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Personal Injury Cases After Racing on Highway

These cases can result in criminal charges. When a crash occurs, the incident can also result in a lawsuit for personal injury. Racing on a highway constitutes negligence. The driver and possibly others that participate in the race can be held liable for the damages, personal bodily injury or death of another person.

In fact, the driver of a vehicle who participates in a highway race with the driver of another vehicle can be held liable for personal injuries cause do a third person even if the injuries were inflicted by the other participant in the race. See Skroh v. Newby, 237 So. 2d 548 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1970). So if vehicle 1 and vehicle 2 are in a race and vehicle 1 crashes into pedestrians, then the driver of vehicle 2 can nevertheless less be held liable for the pedestrian's injuries.

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Information Center on Street Racing in Florida

Florida Statute § 316.191 - Read the statutory languages of Florida's Section 316.191 on the Florida Senate website. Learn more about street racing definitions and the penalties for this offense. 

Street Racing Made Safe - Nonprofit organization makes the roads safer by taking street racers off Interstate 95, Florida's Turnpike, U.S. 27 and Bee Line Highway and puts them on regional racetracks throughout Palm Beach County, Broward County, and other locations in South Florida.

Street Racing Moves from the Streets to Tracks - Article in the Sun-Sentinel on law enforcement efforts to eliminate racing on open and public roadways.

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Finding a Highway Racing Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale

In Palm Beach County, 29 street racing citations were 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., "The Traffic Stop." Our attorneys provide aggressive representation to protect our clients charged with racing on the highways throughout Palm Beach County and Broward County, Florida.

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