Jacksonville Racing on Highways / Street Racing Attorney
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
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.
How is Racing on Highways or “Street Racing” Defined in Florida?
The offense of Racing on Highways, or “Street Racing” is outlined in Section 316.191
of the Florida Statutes. The Florida statute provides that a person may not:
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
in any manner participate in, coordinate, facilitate, or collect moneys at any location
for any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition; or
Knowingly ride as a passenger in any such race, competition, contest, test, or exhibition;
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
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.
What are the Penalties for Racing on Highways or Street Racing in 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:
Fines- For a first offense, there is a minimum $500 fine and maximum fine of up to
$1,000. For a second offense, the minimum fine increases to $1,000, with a maximum
fine of $3,000.
Driver’s License Revocation- A plea to the charge of Racing on Highways in also carries
serious consequences for your Florida driver’s license. Under Section 316.191(3)(a),
Florida Statutes, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles must revoke
an offender’s driving privileges for a minimum period of one year upon conviction,
EVEN IF ADJUDICATION IS WITHHELD. For subsequent offenses, the revocation period
can increase to four years (for a third offense).
Possible Vehicle Impoundment/Immobilization- Whenever a law enforcement officer determines
that a person was engaged in a drag race or race, as defined in Section 316.191,
the officer may immediately arrest and take such person into custody. The officer
may then have the vehicle impounded for a period of 30 business days if the police
officer has arrested and taken a person into custody and the person being arrested
is the registered owner or co-owner of the motor vehicle. Section 316.191(5) also
authorizes the trial court to enter an order of impoundment or immobilization as
a condition of incarceration or probation.
Possible Vehicle Forfeiture- Lastly, any motor vehicle used in violation of the statute
by any person within five years after the date of a prior conviction of that person
for a violation under the statute may be seized and forfeited as provided by the
Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. See Section 316.191(6), referring to 932.701,
Florida Statutes. However, this provision is only applicable if the owner of the
motor vehicle is the person charged with violation of the statute.
Creation of a Criminal Record- A conviction for Racing on Highways or street racing
will result in a criminal record, harming employment prospects, causing points to
be assessed against your driver’s license, and dramatically increasing your insurance
Under Florida Law, Will a Withhold of Adjudication Save My Driver’s License?
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.
Our Advice: Hire an Attorney to Contest the Charge or Lower the Charge
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:
the police officer didn’t actually witness or fully witness the alleged incident;
video footage contradicts the officer’s allegations;
the prosecution is unable to adequately prove that a challenge took place, or that
there was a competitive response or acceptance of the challenge;
witness testimony contradicts the officer’s allegations;
the accused merely engaged in routine traffic maneuvers (i.e. passing, accelerating,
the officer’s current allegations are contradicted by his own citation/arrest report;
the actual speed of the vehicle(s) is not consistent with an allegation of “racing;”
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.