Street racing has been popular in California since the 1940s. Street racing has gotten even more popular worldwide since the Fast and Furious franchise of films. Drivers in the East Bay may challenge others on the road to a speed contest or meet up to show off their driving skills until the cops show up to shut it down.
If the police pull over a driver who is suspected of street racing, they may arrest the driver for street racing, and include charges for speeding, reckless driving, or evading police. In most cases, engaging in a speed contest is a misdemeanor charge. However, if street racing results in serious bodily injury, it can be charged as a felony.
California Vehicle Code Section 23109 VC makes it unlawful to aid or engage in a speed contest. However, the police may accuse someone of street racing just for going a few miles an hour over the limit. If you have questions about a 23109 VC violation, contact a local East Bay DUI defense lawyer.
Vehicle Code 23109 VC Text
Under California Vehicle Code Section 23109, a person shall not engage in a motor vehicle speed contest, exhibition of speed, or aid or abet in a speed contest on any highway.
There are 4 separate restrictions under the code, against:
- Engaging in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway;
- Aiding or abetting a motor vehicle speed contest;
- Engaging or aiding in an exhibition of speed; or
- Obstructing a highway for the purpose of facilitating a speed contest.
Elements of the Offense
The DA or prosecutor has to prove every element of the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is any doubt that even one element is not met, the defendant should be found not guilty.
Vehicle Code 23109 VC
Under the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, to prove the defendant is guilty of the street racing, the state has to prove:
- The defendant drove a motor vehicle on a highway; AND
- While so driving, the defendant willfully engaged in a speed contest.
What is a “Speed Contest” or “Exhibition of Speed”?
A speed contest or exhibition of speed are the terms used under the statute to refer to street racing, drag racing, or hot rodding. This generally refers to cars racing against another vehicle, clock, or other timing device.
An exhibition of speed is more vague and can be described as accelerating or driving at a rate of speed that is dangerous and unsafe in order to show off or make an impression on someone else. This could include driving at a high rate of speed with a camera and live streaming or posting online, even if no one is present to witness the “showing off.”
A “highway” includes highways, freeways, city streets, and any area publicly maintained and open to the public for the purposes of vehicular travel.
A “motor vehicle” is not limited to cars. A motor vehicle can include any passenger vehicle, motorcycle, truck, SUV, van, bus, school bus, ATV, commercial vehicle, or tractor truck.
Penalties for Street Racing in California
The penalties for street racing can be severe compared to other traffic offenses. This is because street racing is perceived as a dangerous activity, even if the drivers are experienced and competent drivers. A conviction for street racing can include:
- Imprisonment in the county jail for up to 90 days (but not less than 24 hours)
- Fine of up to $1,000
- License suspension for up to 6 months
- 40 hours of community service
- Impounded vehicle for up to 30 days
A second offense within 2 years carries greater penalties. A conviction that occurred within 5 years of a prior offense carries a minimum of 4 days in jail and a higher minimum fine.
The penalties are much more serious if someone is seriously injured in a speed contest. If a person suffers bodily injury (including a bystander, spectator, or vehicle passenger), the minimum jail sentence is 30 days. If a person suffers serious bodily injury, the jail sentence can extend to up to a year. If charged as a felony, the penalties can include up to 3 years in prison.
Defenses to Street Racing Charges
There are defenses available to charges of street racing or speed exhibitions. In some cases, the police arrive late to a street race and stop any vehicle they can. This may include a person who was just driving by or a spectator. A spectator should not be charged with street racing if they did not actually engage in a speed contest. However, there may be local city or county ordinances that penalize spectators.
Street Racing 23109 CVC Violations in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties
A street racing or exhibition of speed conviction can mean the loss of your car for a month and loss of your license for 6 months. If you were accused of street racing, talk to your East Bay criminal defense attorney for help. Attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 36 years of courtroom experience and understands the consequences of a criminal conviction for California drivers. Contact Alameda County and Contra Costa County defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.