“Exhibition of speed” is similar to an act of reckless driving, such as “drag racing” or “street racing.” Although each state has its own laws concerning driving recklessly, in general, an exhibition of speed is considered to be reckless driving.
In general, most speeding and moving violations are not considered to be criminal offenses. Instead, most speeding and moving violations are only infractions. An infraction is a minimal criminal offense that a person can commit in the United States. In many jurisdictions, infraction laws are considered to be civil violations instead of crimes.
A speeding or moving violation will generally result in the following criminal consequences:
- Imposing a criminal fine;
- Affecting the person who receives the infraction in their ability to get a driver’s license;
- Raising the cited person’s car insurance rates.
Importantly, a moving violation is not likely to result in jail time or other more severe criminal charges, such as a misdemeanor charge. Examples of common speeding and moving violations include:
- Failure to yield;
- Failing to stop or signal;
- Dangerous left turn;
- Failure to obey traffic lights;
- Invalid registration sticker.
It is important to note that reckless driving, such as an exhibition of speed, is considered to be a criminal activity that is punishable by either a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Importantly, an exhibition of speed is not the same as street racing. This is because street racing generally involves two or more cars recklessly driving. On the other hand, an exhibition of speed charge typically only involves one single car.
For instance, performing donuts, dangerously accelerating, or drifting around corners can all result in an exhibition of speed criminal charges. Although both crimes are generally punishable under reckless driving statutes, the specific charge will be based on the facts observed by the officers who issue the citation.
Is Exhibition of Speed Worse Than Reckless Driving?
As mentioned, exhibition of speed citations are typically punished under the state’s reckless driving statutes. Although the exact legal definition differs by state, the term reckless driving refers to driving of a vehicle at a speed or in a manner that shows an utter disregard for the safety of other people or property.
This means that a reckless driver knows that they are driving dangerously but chooses to do so despite the risk to the general public. Once again, depending on the specific state in which a person lives, reckless driving is considered to be either a misdemeanor criminal offense or a felony offense, depending on the facts of the case.
Courts consider a number of different factors when determining whether or not a driver is driving in a reckless manner. Examples of such factors that a court may use when determining whether or not a driver was driving recklessly include:
- The time of day in which the act occurred;
- For instance, if the driver was driving at night, where the visibility was low, then that could be utilized as evidence of recklessness given the conditions;
- Weather conditions, such as whether or not it was raining, snowing, foggy, etc.;
- The presence of other people, such as other drivers or pedestrians; and
- Whether or not the driver’s act was beyond mere negligence.
Although state laws vary when specifically defining reckless driving, some of the most common examples of reckless driving include:
- Speeding excessively, generally 25 miles over the posted speed limit;
- Aggressively tailgating another person;
- Illegal passing, such as passing on a curve or using the opposing traffic lane to pass;
- Weaving through traffic;
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals;
- Driving a vehicle that is known to have faulty brakes or other dangerous flaws that could harm others;
- Racing other cars or performing an exhibition of speed in a non-controlled environment;
- Escaping from a police officer after a traffic stop.
To reiterate, a driver is said to be driving recklessly when they are negligent in maintaining reasonable control of their vehicle. However, a driver’s actions might amount to mere negligence and are not found to reach the level of willful or wanton disregard for the safety or consequences associated with the operation of their vehicle. In that case, such actions are not sufficient to establish reckless driving.
What Elements Constitute Exhibition of Speed?
The exact elements of what constitutes an exhibition of speed will differ depending on the state laws in which the act occurred. In general, most state statutes dealing with an exhibition of speed charges include the following elements:
- The driver was operating a motor vehicle on a highway or public road;
- The driver was speeding or accelerating in a dangerous or unsafe manner;
- The driver was speeding or accelerating in a dangerous or unsafe manner in an attempt to gain the attention of the public, to show off, or to impress someone.
In most states, individuals who are participating in the exhibition of speed will face criminal charges. Additionally, depending on the circumstances of the specific case, drivers may also be held liable for civil consequences if an injury or property damage resulted from the exhibition of speed.
In addition to the drive, some jurisdictions also punish spectators to a street race or an exhibition of speed. A spectator is generally defined as any individual who is present at an exhibition of speed for the purpose of viewing, witnessing, and/or watching the event. Additionally, a person may also be criminally cited if they do any of the following in association with an exhibition of speed:
- Engaging in an exhibition of speed themselves;
- Aid in the exhibition of speed, such as advertising it or closing off a street;
- Assist with preparations for the exhibition of speed;
- Filming the exhibition of speed.
What Are The Consequences of Exhibition of Speed?
Once again, the exact consequences of an exhibition of speed charge will depend on the circumstances of the specific case, as well as the state laws regarding an exhibition of speed. In general, an exhibition of speed will result in a misdemeanor charge, and if convicted, an individual may receive the following charges:
- A criminal fine;
- Imprisonment of up to a year in jail;
- Suspension of the driver’s license;
- Impoundment of the car utilized in the exhibition of speed; and/or
- An order for community service.
For instance, in California, an exhibition of speed charge may result in the following penalties:
- A $500 fine;
- 90 days in jail;
- Suspension of your license for up to 6 months;
- Impoundment of your car for up to 30 days; and
- Community service for up to 50 hours.
Then, if a driver in California is convicted a second time, the possible jail time becomes a maximum of six months, including a mandatory driver’s license suspension of up to six months. If a person is injured as a result of an exhibition of speed, then the crime may be charged as a felony crime. In California, if convicted of felony exhibition of speed (known as a “speed contest” in California), the driver may face up to three years in jail and a maximum criminal fine of $10,000.
Are There Any Legal Defenses for Exhibition of Speed?
In short, yes, there are many legal defenses under criminal law statutes that may be raised by a defendant for an illegal exhibition of speed or exhibition driving ticket. One of the main legal defenses is that there is an insufficient amount of evidence for the individual to be convicted of the crime. In other words, the prosecution cannot fulfill their burden of proving that the driver is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Other common legal defenses for exhibition of speed include:
- Vague Statute: The statute or ordinance concerning exhibition of speed was not sufficiently specific to put an ordinary person on notice of what activities are considered to be prohibited.
- Lack of Intent: Another common legal defense is that there was no intent to race or exhibit speed, and as such, the incident does not fulfill the elements necessary to convict the individual.
- Accident: The individual accused of an exhibition of speed may also provide a defense to their actions, such as a loss of traction, or that their actions were a result of road conditions, such as gravel or wet road conditions.
Do I Need an Attorney for Exhibitions of Speed Charges?
If you are facing charges for an exhibition of speed, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced traffic violation lawyer. An experienced traffic violation attorney can help you understand your state’s specific laws regarding reckless driving and whether there is a specific statute for exhibition of speed.
An attorney can also explain what your legal rights and options are according to those laws. Finally, a traffic violation lawyer will also be able to represent you at any in-person criminal proceeding.