Drag racing in the Tampa area has been alive and well in for a long time. Mix testosterone with high octane gasoline and a lot of horsepower and you have a recipe for adrenaline. As is so often the case with any hobby that may push the envelope on safety, this particular brand of fun is highly regulated when legal and illegal when not performed in the proper venue. Unfortunately, those who participate in road racing in an illegal venue are doing it not with a specific purpose to break the law or cause damage or physical harm to anyone, but rather to enjoy the fun that a high speed race provides. Consequently, for as much as racers want to enjoy their racing, the local police want to catch the racers and put a stop to their actions. Though at first blush one would say, “what is the harm in a drag race?” there can be serious legal consequences effected by laws put in place to prevent the damage that can precipitate from racing. After a local police officer was injured when his car was hit by a racer, WTSP Channel 10 News’ Melanie Michael interviewed Tampa criminal lawyer Jason Mayberry about illegal road racing. As a complement to that interview we’ll provide our audience with the consequences that attach when one pleas to a racing on the highway charge.
As a general rule racing on the highway charges are considered to be first degree misdemeanors carrying a possible jail penalty of 11 months, 29 days in jail. To be convicted of this charge the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
A. drove a motor vehicle in
B. participated / coordinated / facilitated / collected monies at the location of
C. knowingly rode as a passenger in
D. purposefully caused moving traffic to slow or stop for
a race OR a drag race or acceleration contest OR a speed competition or contest OR a test of physical endurance OR an exhibition of speed OR an attempt to make a speed record on a highway OR road OR parking lot.
Specifically, a conviction for racing, whether or not adjudication is withheld will amount to a $500 to $1000 fine and 1 year driver’s license suspension for a first offense. A second offense within 5 years amounts to a fine of $1000 to $3000 and 2 year driver’s license suspension. A third offense within 5 years will result in a fine of $2000 to $5000 and a 4 year driver’s license suspension. Starting at a second conviction within 5 years the State has the statutory ability to seize your vehicle and forfeit it pursuant to the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act.
So, should you hire a Tampa racing attorney and if so, how can they help? The answer is a resounding yes, hire an attorney if for no other reason but because of the possibility of your driver’s license being suspended. In 2007, portions of the racing on the highway statute were ruled unconstitutional in State v. Wells, 965 So.2d 834 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). This opinion was ultimately conflicted with via Reaves v. State, 979 So.2d 1066 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008) and to date the Florida Supreme Court hasn’t taken up this issue and it remains relatively unsettled. In essence, a Florida Judicial Circuit or even a Judge can choose which opinion he or she agrees with and follow that as the rule of law. If a person gets a racing citation in a circuit that adopts Wells, an attorney can likely, at the least get the charge reduced to a reckless driving or aggressive careless driving, both of which carry a much lighter penalty. If the circuit follows Reaves, the argument can be made that the statute is overbroad (as they did in Wells) in seeking an acquittal at trial or depending on the Prosecutor and policy thereof, can lobby again for a charge reduction. Our firm’s policy is to advise our clients on measures they can take proactively to mitigate their damage should their case call for it. At the end of the day, if it is affordable the hiring of an attorney should work to your benefit in some fashion on a racing charge.
The Mayberry Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 813-444-7435 or at 727-771-3847. Give us a call. We look forward to helping you.