Motor Vehicle Racing on a Highway
Contact a criminal defense lawyer at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, if you were arrested or given a citation (notice to appear) for the misdemeanor criminal charge of “racing” under Florida Statute 316.191. These crimes are also known as “racing on highways” or “illegal street racing.”
Street racing can involve cars, motorcycles, or other types of motor vehicles. This criminal charge is extremely serious because a conviction will cause a suspension of your driver’s license and a dramatic increase in your insurance premiums for years to come.
The insurance companies believe that anyone convicted of street racing is more likely to have a traffic accident in the future. Driving at high speeds often causes serious crashes resulting in death or serious bodily injury.
Despite the serious nature of the charge, prosecutors often have a difficult time proving the offense at trial, especially if there was not a predetermined start and ending point.
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. Your attorney might file a motion to suppress evidence illegally obtained or a motion to exclude unduly prejudicial evidence.
Attorneys for Racing Crimes in Tampa, FL
If you were issued a citation for “Racing on Highway” in violation of Florida Statute Section 316.191(2)(a), then seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
At Sammis Law Firm, our offices are located in downtown Tampa in Hillsborough County. We have additional offices conveniently located in New Port Richey in Pasco County, and in Clearwater in Pinellas 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.
Contact us 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.
Call (813) 250-0500.
The Automatic One Year Suspension for 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.” The fact that you are convicted means that the court must impose a one-year suspension of your driver’s license even if the offense did not result in a crash or cause any property damage.
To obtain Hardship Reinstatement after a conviction for racing under Section 316.191, you must meet the eligibility requirements. These requirements apply to spectators charged with the crime of illegal racing on the highway.
It doesn’t matter whether the court adjudicates you guilty or withholds adjudication, the same requirements apply. The eligibility requirements to obtain a hardship license for this offense include:
- submit an Application for Hardship License (HSMV 78306);
- a $12.00 or $25.00 Filing Fee to be determined by B.A.R staff;
- the hearing officer will conduct CCIS check/inquiry prior to the hearing; and
- show proof of ADI School completion as required by §322.271(2)(a).
By hiring a criminal defense attorney to fight the charge, you might be able to get the citation dismissed or at least amended to a less serious charge so that you can avoid all of these serious consequences on your driving record.
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.
The Law Enforcement Officer Can Seize Your Vehicle for a Second Offense
If you get cited again for racing within 5 years of a prior conviction for racing, then a law enforcement officer may seize and attempt to forfeit your vehicle under the Contraband Forfeiture Act in Florida, assuming you are in a vehicle that you own.
Prosecutions for 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 outdistance each other or to beat the other vehicle to a certain designed endpoint 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 of the term “race” is equally vague. The statute refers to terms like “challenge to demonstrate the 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; or
- Other factors might 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 participated in the alleged street racing or drag racing incident:
- The driver of the car, motorcycle, or any 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.
Points on the Driving Record for Racing in Florida
If you are convicted of racing on the highway in violation of most subsections of Florida Statute 316.191 then you will receive 4 points on your driving record. If you are convicted of racing on the highway as a spectator then you will receive three points on your driving record.
- 316.191(2)(a) – Racing on the highway – driving a motor vehicle – 4 points
- 316.191(2)(b) – Racing on the highway – coordinate facilitate and collect monies – 4 points
- 316.191(2)(b) – Racing on the highway – coordinate, facilitate, and collect monies – 4 points
- 316.191(2)(c) – Racing on the highway – knowingly ride as a passenger – 4 points
- 316.191(2)(d) – Racing on the highway – purposely stop or slow traffic – 4 points
- 316.191(4)(a) – Racing on the highway – spectator – 3 points
Constitutionality of Florida Statute § 316.191
In response to a challenge by the criminal defense attorney that Florida Statute Section 316.191 is unconstitutional on its face and as applied, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office in Florida will often argue that the defendant’s actions involve an “element of competition.”
The prosecutor will attempt to distinguish the problems in the prior version of the statute by pointing out that the current version of the racing statute was amended and has been in effect since 2010. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 316.191(2010).
Prior courts found the statute unconstitutional because it failed to include an “element of competition” in its definition of “race.” State v. Wells, 965 So. 2d 834, 839 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).
The current version of the statute, however, addresses this concern in that the definition of a “race” now distinctly includes an “element of competition.”
The statute now provides that “race” means the use of one or more motor vehicles in competition, arising from a challenge to demonstrate [the] superiority of a motor vehicle or driver and 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, 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.
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 the circumstances, can reasonably be interpreted as a challenge to race.
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 3 16.191 (1)(c) (2010) (emphasis added).
Additionally, courts looking at the current version of the statute have found the prior version of the statute was constitutional because the statute, read as a whole, could not be applied unless vehicles were “competing” against one another. Reaves v. State, 979 So. 2d 1066, 1072 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008).
Finally, the prosecutor will often argue that the statute is not unconstitutional as applied to the facts of the case at hand because section 316.19 fairly proscribes the Defendant’s conduct in the case which is encompassed by the definition of “racing” and is expressly prohibited by section 316.191 (2)(a) and (2)(d).
Completing the Driver Improvement Course
Need another reason to avoid a conviction for racing? If you are convicted, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), will automatically send you a notice that you must complete a driver improvement course after a conviction for 316.191 Racing on the Highway.
This requirement applies even though it was not ordered by the court or even mentioned at the sentencing hearing.
If you fail to complete the course within 90 days after receiving notice from the department, the department will cancel your driver license until the course is successfully completed. § 322.0261(4)(a), Fla. Stat. (2014).
Crimes for “Street Takeover” or “Stunt Driving” in Florida
The Florida legislature recently considered 2022 SB 876 entitled “stunt driving on highways” which would prohibit “stunt driving” or participating in a “street takeover.”
What is a street takeover? The term “street takeover” involves a large number of cars gathering at a predetermined location near the roadway.
Some of the vehicles will be used to block off the roadway at an intersection. Then other vehicles will enter the roadway to perform stunts like doughnuts, burnouts, wheelies, drifting, or other activity that are likely to interfere with, startle, distract, or delay other users of the roadway or highway.
Law enforcement officers have a hard time enforcing the law at these events because of the number of cars involved and the size of the gathering.
When law enforcement arrives on the scene, the participants, bystanders, and drivers leave quickly.
Law enforcement officers consider such events to be dangerous. In fact, law enforcement officers claim that injuries and even fatalities have occurred at these types of events.
If passed, the new legislation introduced in 2022 SB 876 would amend Section 316.191, F.S., related to racing on highways by creating three new first degree misdemeanor offenses including:
- operating a vehicle for the purpose of filming or recording the activities of participants in any race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition with an exception for bona fide members of the news media;
- operating a vehicle carrying any amount of fuel for the purposes of fueling a vehicle involved in any race, drag race, street takeover, stunt driving, competition, contest, test, or exhibition; or
- operating a vehicle in a manner that would constitute participation in a street takeover.
Evidence of the filming or recording of a drag race or street takeover, or posting of such event on social media, may be used to determine if a person was a spectator at such event.
For purposes of the new legislation, the term “burnout” is defined as “a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby the vehicle is kept stationary, or is in motion, while the wheels are spun, the resulting friction causing the vehicle’s tires to heat up and emit smoke.
The term “doughnut” is defined as a “maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby the front or rear of the vehicle is rotated around the opposite set of wheels in a continuous motion which may cause a circular skid-mark pattern of rubber on the driving surface or the tires to heat up and emit smoke from friction, or both.”
The term “drifting” is defined as “a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby the vehicle is steered so that it makes a controlled skid sideways through a turn with the front wheels pointed in a direction opposite to that of the turn.”
The term “wheelie” is defined as “a maneuver performed while operating a motor vehicle whereby a
motorcycle or other motor vehicle is ridden for a distance with the front wheel or wheels
raised off the ground.”
Finding an Attorney for Racing in Hillsborough County, FL
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.
We also represent clients on related traffic crimes including reckless driving and the more serious offense of vehicular homicide when a person dies in the crash.
Contact us after an arrest for:
- driving any vehicle in a race on the highway, road, or parking lot (316.191(2)(a));
- participating in or coordinating a race (316.191(2)(b));
- knowingly riding as a passenger in a race (316.191(2)(c)); or
- slowing or stopping traffic for a race (316.191(2)(d)).
This article was last updated on Thursday, May 5, 2022.