San Diego Street Racing Lawyer


When people think of street car racing, they think of a popular movie franchise that encompasses tricked out, custom painted sports cars driven by good-looking yet slightly mysterious men and women. These characters make each race look like a feat of courage, skill, and stamina. The races bring them joy, money, and more cars. It’s clear the activity is illegal as the street racing participants and spectators run from the cops or enjoy chases when they know the cops can’t match their speed. If you are facing charges, an experienced San Diego traffic defense lawyer will be able to protect your rights.

But street or drag racing is dangerous. It isn’t glamorous, it’s deadly. Real life isn’t like the movies, and street car racers don’t always get away unscathed. California police regularly catch and ticket individuals who illegally race their cars, and the punishments for this violation aren’t minimal. Additionally, California takes enforcement of the law seriously in order to diminish the culture of street racing that’s grown throughout the state and to avoid crashes that lead to tragic results.

Street Racing Under California Law

California Vehicle Code Section 23109 prohibits individuals from engaging in a speed contest. To be convicted of this offense, a prosecutor must show the defendant was driving a vehicle on a public street or highway and was driving in such a way to purposefully participate in a race. However, if the defendant never violated the posted speed limit, it is unlikely they can be convicted of a speed contest.

This law does not prohibit driving contests where drivers are timed for a distance greater than 20 miles but the vehicles don’t exceed speed limits.

Examples of speed contests:

  • Two people are headed out to meet friends late at night. They decide to race to their destination and both exceed the speed limits in their cars.
  • People meet at a specified time and place and set up a course with start and finish lines. They then proceed to race each other two at a time until there’s a clear victor.

Possible Penalties & Collateral Consequences

A speed contest is a misdemeanor. If convicted, a defendant faces up to 90 days in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, and 40 hours of community service. Many offenders face having their licensed revoked or restricted for up to 6 months. If it’s not suspended for a period of time, then they will at least receive points on their license that could lead to a suspension in the future.

If the race causes anyone harm, the minimum jail time is 30 days.

There are additional consequences beyond the statutory penalties. Someone who loses their license will have a difficult time going to work, getting to school, or taking care of their families. They’ll likely have to rely on family and friends for rides.

A poor driving record can affect a person’s career. Any job that includes driving, such as a delivery or truck driver, will require a record check. A misdemeanor for racing generally means an individual loses the chance at that job.

If an offender is unable to pay their fines or the police can prove the vehicle or its parts have been altered, it’s possible for the police to sell or destroy the cars.

Potential Defenses

The offense of speed racing requires someone to intend to race and purposefully engage in the contest. If the defendant didn’t willfully participate then this can be a defense to the charge.

The law prohibits speed contests on public roads. A defense is that the race occurred on private property.

Additionally, if a formal speed contest fell within the statutory guidelines, the defendant is not guilty of violating the law.

How a San Diego Traffic Lawyer Can Help

If you’ve been charged with street racing on California streets, contact a San Diego traffic attorney right away. A misdemeanor conviction for racing may not seem overly serious, but even a misdemeanor creates a record that lasts forever. It’s also likely you’ve received tickets for illegal vehicle modifications and other traffic violations=. All of these offenses add up and can result in time significant jail time and harsh fines.

Contact Jessica McElfresh to learn more about how you can defend yourself. Jessica has years of experience of defending people charged with traffic violations including street racing. She’ll get to know your case well and then do whatever she can to minimize negative results. Call McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107.