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In Florida, racing on highways (street racing) is a criminal offense that carries serious penalties, including substantial fines, a possible jail sentence, possible vehicle forfeiture, and a mandatory one year driver’s license revocation.  Under Florida law, Racing on Highways or “Street Racing” is not a traffic ticket.  It is a criminal charge and a first degree misdemeanor with penalties of up to 365 days jail.

You should almost never plead to a charge of Racing on Highways or Street Racing in Florida. If you have been charged with racing in Jacksonville or elsewhere in Northeast Florida, including Duval County, Clay County, and Nassau County, contact an aggressive Jacksonville Criminal Attorney for a free consultation.

Definition of Racing on Highways or Street Racing Under Florida Law

The offense of Racing on Highways, or “Street Racing” is defined in Section 316.191 of the Florida Statutes.  The Florida statute provides that a person may not:

  1. Drive any motor vehicle, including any motorcycle, in any race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, or exhibition of speed or acceleration or for the purpose of making a speed record on any highway, roadway, or parking lot; or
  2. In any manner participate in, coordinate, facilitate, or collect moneys at any location for any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition; or
  3. Knowingly ride as a passenger in any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition; or
  4. Purposefully cause the movement of traffic to slow or stop for any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition.

Under Florida law, to “Race” means the use of one or more motor vehicles in competition, arising from a challenge to demonstrate 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.

Florida law defines “Drag Race” 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 over a common selected course, from the same point 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.

“Spectator” means any person who is knowingly present at and views a drag race, when such presence is the result of an affirmative choice to attend or participate in the race. For purposes of determining whether or not an individual is a spectator, finders of fact shall consider the relationship between the racer and the individual, evidence of gambling or betting on the outcome of the race, and any other factor that would tend to show knowing attendance or participation.

Penalties for Racing on Highways or Street Racing Florida

As discussed above, Florida law classifies Racing on Highways as a first degree misdemeanor, which carries a potential jail penalty of one year.  In addition to possible jail penalties, a plea to the charge of Street Racing carries the following penalties:

Will a Withhold of Adjudication Save My License with a Racing Charge?

No.  As used in the Jacksonville Racing on Highways statute, the term "conviction" means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld.  Thus, even if you negotiate with the prosecutor for a withhold of adjudication of guilt, you are still considered “convicted” and will suffer the same consequences as a person who is formally adjudicated guilty of the offense.

Wasn’t Florida’s Racing on highways Statute Declared Unconstitutional?  

Yes, but only by the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal.  In State v. Wells, 965 So. 2d 834 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007), the Fourth District held that the racing on highways or street racing statute was unconstitutionally vague, both on its face and as applied to the defendant.  The Court’s rationale was based on a previous version of the statute where the definition of “racing” did not include an element of competition.  The statute addressed in the decision defined “racing” as “the use of one or more motor vehicles in an attempt to outgain or outdistance another motor vehicle.”  Without an element of competition being included within this definition, the Fourth District reasoned that the statute impermissibly encompassed legal maneuvers that drivers employed in their daily lives.

For multiple reasons, State v. Wells is no longer good law in Jacksonville, FL.  First, the racing on highways statute has been amended to include an element of competition in the definition of “race.”  Section 316.191(1)(c) now defines “race” as “the use of one or more motor vehicles in competition . . .”  This addresses the vagueness argument made in the Wells case. Also, the First District Court of Appeal, the appellate district governing Jacksonville, Duval County, Clay County, and Nassau County Florida, has upheld the statute as facially constitutional.  See Reaves v. State, 979 So. 2d 1066, 1072 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008). Thus, a challenge to the constitutionality of the Racing on Highways statute is legally doomed to failure. No.  As used in the Jacksonville Racing on Highways statute, the term "conviction" means a determination of

Hire an Attorney to Contest or Reduce the Charge Jacksonville, Florida

Given the severe penalties imposed upon conviction for racing on highways or street racing, it is our view that an accused should almost never plead guilty to the offense as charged. There are many legal and factual defenses available to contest a charge of racing on highways or street racing in Jacksonville, FL.  These potential defenses may include the following:

Numerous other defenses can be raised to contest a Street Racing charge in Florida. Depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, these defenses can be raised to fight the charge at trial, or, if appropriate, to negotiate a plea to a lower charge or to simple traffic citation.

If your case proceeds to trial, you can also raise legal arguments to obtain more favorable jury instructions. There are major discrepancies between the Florida Standard Jury Instructions applicable to a “Racing on Highways” charge, and the wording of the actual Racing statute. The racing on highways statute contains stricter language about what conduct is actually criminal in nature.  In other words, the state has to prove more under the wording of the actual law than under the wording of the jury instructions.  An experienced Jacksonville racing on highways attorney and criminal defense lawyer can recognize these discrepancies and argue for the inclusion of statutory language that will make the charge more difficult for the State to prove.

If you are facing a charge of Racing on Highways or Street Racing in Jacksonville, FL, contact our criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville to discuss your legal options.  All consultations with our Jacksonville street racing lawyer are free and confidential.