Speed is exhilarating. That is a sentiment claimed by a lot of drivers while talking about driving. One finds him/herself filled with adrenaline when he/she is behind the wheel. To satisfy that thrill, there are dozens of sporting events dedicated to high-speed vehicular actions. These are done in proper places (i.e., rack tracks) by professionals equipped with the right gears and gadgets designed for optimal driving conditions. This is alright as long as they are not putting themselves or others in unnecessary danger. However, some drivers irresponsibly perform these exhibitions in places where they should not (i.e., highways). A harmful act that might endanger many. That is why California declared Speed Contests as a criminal act under the California Vehicle Code 23109.
California Vehicle Code 23109 criminalizes the act of participating in speed contests because, when done in the wrong place, this can be destructive, if not deadly to the driver, other traffic, pedestrians, and properties.
According to the CVC 23109, a speed contest is defined as an activity where a motorist drives at high speeds with the intent to race against other drivers or to beat a clock or other timing devices.
The statute contains the following conditions and prohibitions:
- A person should not participate in any speed contests involving motor vehicles on a highway.
- A person should not provide any form of assistance in organizing any motor vehicle speed contests on a highway.
- A person should not participate or assist in any motor vehicle speed exhibition on a highway.
- A person should not obstruct or place any form of barricade or obstruction in a highway with the intent of conducting an exhibition or speed contests. This includes intentionally providing any form of assistance.
Punishments for Violating CVC 23109
The state of California's justice system categorizes the act of violating CVC 23109 a misdemeanor offense. This is a level of criminal offense that is less severe than a felony but more severe than an infraction. It usually comes with a sentence of no more than a jail time of 365 days in a county jail. Specifically, the punishment for speed contests includes:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for no less than twenty-four (24) hours but not more than ninety (90) days; and/or
- A fine of not less than three hundred and fifty-five dollars ($355) but not more than one thousand dollars ($1000).
After the violator served the sentence and paid his/her fine, the court can also add additional sanctions like:
- A forty (40) hour community service; and/or
- Suspension of driving privileges for ninety (90) days to six (6) months.
A violator of California Vehicle Code 23109 can face misdemeanor charges. This can be reflected in his/her criminal, behavioral, and driving records. A tarnished record might affect the person's chances of getting access to civil and social premiums, in this case, a driver's license. That is why it is of utmost importance to employ a defense attorney's aid to help settle the legal disputes by attempting to lessen, if not drop, the charges. A good defense lawyer might include the following for the defense:
- There is no sufficient evidence to show that the driver was engaging in a “speed contest”; and/or
- He/she did not act “willfully”.
For the offense to be considered a violation of CVC 23109, the conditions and definition of “speed contest” must be met. This is important because there are instances where regular speeding violations are charged as speed contests by a Highway Patrol officer. These happen when an officer misidentifies the offense due to ignorance or worst, malice—a result police misconduct often connected to racial profiling.
For a participant, especially the people accused of providing aid in conducting the offense, to be criminalized as a violator of CVC 23109, he/she must have done the act willfully. This means that he/she must have known the intent of conducting speed contests, and more importantly, the person should not have been coerced to assist or participate.
If you or someone you know ever had the misfortune of being wrongfully accused of violating CVC 23109, it would be your best interest to hire a credible defense lawyer from our experienced roster of professionals.
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