Jeffrey Rich Blog

Posts tagged ‘Charged with Racing’

We’ve all seen “The Fast and the Furious” and quickly fallen in love with the speed and adrenaline Paul Walker and Vin Diesel provide as they make their hopped up power wagons do things that are seemingly impossible. Consequently, movies like this inspired thousands of people to buy a similar car and do their best to emulate Pauly Walnuts and Vinnie D as they zing down Tampa Bay’s highways. As this practice evolved, illegal drag strips were established and through word of mouth people became familiar with where and when to go in order to see these rocket ships on wheels fly up and down the road. Like any other red blooded American male, I have to agree that the spectacle these cars provide is entertaining, if not amazing. Clearly, I am not alone.

To many spectators’ surprise and dismay, as recently as a week ago St. Petersburg local police departments organized two stings in which they blocked off any reasonable method for escape and cited and/or arrested several people racing and observing the racing that occurred near Fourth Street North. Obviously the individuals that were participating in the actual racing were either cited or arrested for “Racing on the Highway,” a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of not less than $500 but not more than $1000. Equally as punitive is the fact that if a plea is entered to this charge, be it an adjudication of guilt or a withhold of adjudication, the defendant will receive a 1 year driver’s license revocation by the department of motor vehicles.

It was the spectators of the racing that likely received the biggest surprise of the evening, however. Despite never getting behind a wheel of one of the cars or even so much as kicking a tire, any spectator in attendance could be and likely was given a civil traffic infraction with the prospect of receiving 3 points on their driving record. According to Florida Statute 316.191, a “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. In English, if you are there to watch the racing, you can get a ticket.

Fair? As a Tampa criminal lawyer, that’s not my call. Clearly Florida’s Legislature has made this recent “spectator” addition in a policy effort to prevent people from showing up at the drag strip. They likely are assuming if we can cut out the fans, then the players won’t bother playing the game. Will this policy effort work? Probably not, as any policy decision to dissuade American’s from doing something they are hell bent on doing, typically works about as well as creating a lead airplane.

So, if you find yourself in the precarious situation of being charged with racing, or merely being a spectator at a race, it would behoove you to investigate the prospect of hiring an attorney well versed in traffic law. Nobody wants a criminal record, and for damn sure nobody wants to lose their license for a year. Less serious, but still significant, it’s not a good idea to allow points to accumulate on your driving record either. If you get too many in too short a time, you can also watch your driving privilege race away. Further, once your insurance company catches wind of the points on your license you can bank on your buddies at State Farm or that Geico lizard raising those rates.

Bottom line, be careful if you choose to race or watch illegal racing. Officer friendly generally gets his man, and their pretty good at what they do around here. But, if you do get saddled with a race related charge, pick up the phone and give us a call. As experienced traffic and misdemeanor attorneys in Tampa, we might just save your license.

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