Engaging in a Speed Contest
California Vehicle Code 23109(a) defines the crime of willfully participating in a speed contest, which is a misdemeanor offenses punishable up to 90 days in jail, large fines, and a driver’s license suspension.
A speed contest means a situation where someone is engaging in street racing, drag racing, or an exhibition of speed with motor vehicles on a public street, highway or freeway.
VC 23109(a) also prohibits racing against a timing device such stopwatch. Put simply, you violate California’s speed contest law when you use a car to race against another vehicle or a clock.
Under this statute, a “motor vehicle” does not just mean a car or truck, but also includes a motorcycle, bus, commercial vehicle, or a truck tractor.
As noted, this crime must occur on a public street or highway, which means any area maintained and open to the public for purposes of car travel. It does not include racing on private property.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are reviewing the laws below.
Penalties for a Speed Contest Conviction
If you are convicted of violating vehicle Code 23109(a) speed contest, it’s normally a misdemeanor offense with the following penalties:
- Up to 24 hours to a maximum 90-day county jail sentence,
- Fines of $355 up to $1,000,
- Suspension or restricted license for 90 days to 6 months,
- Community service up to 40 hours,
- Summary probation,
- Vehicle impoundment for up to 30 days.
A restricted driver’s license means you are only allowed to drive to and from work. If you are caught driving outside this restriction, then you be charged with a separate crime of driving on a suspended license defined under Vehicle Code 14601 VC.
The penalties for engaging in a speed contest will increase if you have a prior conviction for a speed contest within the past 5 years or someone sustained a bodily injury.
Prior conviction for speed contest penalties include a minimum of 4 days in jail, a fine up to $1,000, and a mandatory suspension or restriction of your driver’s license for 6 months.
Speed Contest Causing an Injury
If the speed contest caused injuries to another person, the penalties will increase to at least 30 days in jail, but no more than 6 months. Fines include between $500 and $1,000.
If the speed contest caused serious bodily injury to another person, then this crime is now a “wobbler” that can be charged by the prosecutor as either a misdemeanor or felony crime at the prosecutor’s discretion.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor speed contest causing serious bodily injury, then the penalties include:
- thirty days to one year in county jail,
- a fine between $500 and $1,000.
If convicted of a felony case of speed contest causing serious bodily injury, the penalties include the following:
- sixteen months, two years, or three years in jail,
- a fine up to $10,000.
A serious bodily injury in the context of Vehicle Code 23109 VC could include a concussion, broken bones, wound requiring stitches, scarring or disfigurement, loss of a limb, or other similar injury.
“Serious bodily injury” is a slightly lesser standard than the standard of “great bodily injury/harm” that plays a role in other California criminal law.
- Vehicle Code 23109(c) VC – exhibition of speed,
- Vehicle Code 23103 VC – reckless driving,
- Vehicle Code 23152 VC – driving under the influence,
- Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC – misdemeanor evading police,
- Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC – felony reckless evading.
Best Defenses for Street Racing
Right now, a hot crime is street racing, especially in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, CA. The police are out in force looking for those individuals who are involved in street racing.
What the end up doing is, they just come swooping in and they arrest everybody that they think is involved in street racing.
If they can get a good conviction on you, they will put you in a position where you can lose your license for a year. They can get jail time against you and the prosecutor and judges have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for those people out on the road street racing.
The reason why, in my opinion, is because they feel like the public is in danger when those individuals start to street race. They feel like they could kill somebody and it is very dangerous to society.
So, you definitely don’t want to get arrested for street racing. If anything happens where you hit somebody and hurt them or kill them, you’re facing serious prison time. They have no sympathy whatsoever.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with street racing, definitely take it seriously because it is a serious crime. Hire somebody like me who has three decades of experience, defending people just like you.
I started out working for the District Attorney’s office in East Los Angeles so I could get a feel for how the prosecutors handle cases like this.
I always had the intent to be a criminal defense attorney, but I knew that if I could get a peek at the other side to see how they investigate cases, how they prosecute cases, how they deal with law enforcement as they’re preparing them to deal with the cases, I’d have a huge advantage.
Challenging the Police Report
By the way, the police are extremely lazy in these cases. They don’t even read their police reports a lot of times before they testify at preliminary hearings in some of the cases.
So, I have a huge advantage because not only have I read the police report, I’ve also talked to witnesses and my client. So, I’m ready to go when it comes to dealing with these street racing cases and challenging the police.
A lot of times the prosecutors are lazy as well. They have too many cases. The police haven’t prepared them. They weren’t out there. They didn’t see what happened.
So, if they do have you for street racing and they’re going to be able to convict you, sometimes they don’t have all of the information.
That puts them in a position where they’re a little bit weak when it comes to defending the case, and it’s up to me as your defense attorney, to convince them that they don’t have the information and to give them the information — teach them and educate them about some of the information they don’t have.
That’s done in various ways. I can submit a mitigation package about what happened, telling your side of the story and providing evidence related to your side of the story.
That way, this whole stigma of street racing sometimes can be watered down to show that they weren’t dangerous out there.
They weren’t going to hurt anybody. It was in the middle of the night and nobody was out. They took precautions. They were careful, whatever the case may be.
Dealing with Judges on Speed Contest Cases
Also, dealing with judges — some of these judges get angry because people are street racing and they want to do something about it. They want to punish the person and teach them a lesson, especially if somebody got hurt or killed.
I think a lot of times, the judges feel like they need to do something and say something because they’re protecting society.
So, we have to get to the judge as well and explain to the judge what really happened and we have to show what we’re going to do moving forward, such as:
- We’re not going to get ourselves in this position again;
- We’re going to be careful;
- We’re going to get character letters on your behalf.
If you’ve got a job, we’re going to show them that. If you’ve got family and friends who can speak highly of you, we’re going to show them that.
Preparing a Defense Strategy for Best Possible Outcome
Further, I think one of the most important things that I do is, I’m going to look at exactly what happened:
- Was there an accident?
- Did anybody get hurt?
- How dangerous really was it?
I’ve got a good accident reconstruction expert and sometimes I get him involved.
Not every case, but if it’s the right type of case, I will get him involved. A lot of times, he can show another side to the story and because he’s a professional, because he’s respected and well-known,
A lot of times it puts us in a much better position. Now I can point to the prosecutor and say, no, the person wasn’t going 100 miles an hour.
They’re looking at some camera from a store that’s not giving them the right information. Sometimes there’s skid marks. There’s all sorts of things we can do.
The bottom line, as far as I’m concerned if you’re going to be defended in a street racing type of case, whether somebody was hurt or not, do it once. Do it right and never do it again.
So, you’ve come to the right place. This is right up my alley. Pick up the phone. Make the call. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.
I will educate you and I will get you on the right path to get out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible and do everything I can to protect your driver’s license.
Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and we offer a free case evaluation.
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