CRS 42-4-1105 - Speed Contests and Exhibitions of Speed in Colorado law


CRS 42-4-1105 is the Colorado statute that prohibits the exhibition of speed, or speed contests, on highways. Knowingly racing a motor vehicle on a public roadway is a traffic misdemeanor, carrying 10 days to 1 year in jail and/or fines of $150 to $1,000. And repeat offenders risk having their vehicles booted for up to a month and paying a daily $35 immobilization fee.

In this article, our Denver criminal defense attorneys discuss:

Two cars legally racing on a Colorado speedway.
Colorado state law under CRS 42-4-1105 prohibits speed racing and exhibitions, except on authorized tracks.

1. Are speed contests legal in Colorado?

No. Colorado law prohibits knowingly engaging in speed contests on highways, including any public road.

A speed contest is when one or more cars race or do a timed trial. Speed contests typically involve rapid acceleration, high speeds, and/or lane changes.1

2. Are speed exhibitions legal in Colorado?

No. Colorado law prohibits knowingly engaging in speed exhibitions on highways, including any public road.

A speed exhibition is driving a car to display its speed or power. Speed exhibitions typically involve squealing the tires, rapid swerving and weaving through traffic, and producing smoke from tire slippage.2

3. What are the penalties under CRS 42-4-1105?

Knowingly conducting a speed contest is a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense. It carries:

  • 10 days to 12 months in jail, and/or
  • $300 to $1,000 in fines

Meanwhile, knowingly conducting an exhibition of speed is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. It carries laxer penalties than speed contests:

  • 10 days to 90 days in jail, and/or
  • $150 to $300 in fines

These same penalties apply to anyone who helped organize or facilitate the unlawful speed events, such as by erecting or removing barricades, traffic control devices, obstructions, or other highway fixtures.3

3.1. What happens to the vehicles?

Following a second conviction of speed racing or exhibition, the court may order the police to immobilize the car(s) for up to 14 days. Following a third conviction, this period can last 15 to 30 days.

This immobilization period is in addition to any period of time the police may have impounded the vehicle. If the locations of the vehicles are unknown, police may search for them and ask other law enforcement agencies to help. 

Law enforcement typically uses a boot to temporarily disable vehicles. Car owners who remove these immobilization devices early or without permission face a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense charge. This carries:

  • 10 days to 90 days in jail, and/or
  • $150 to $300 in fines

Car owners must pay a daily $35 fee during the immobilization. They also have to pay a daily $35 fee for up to 14 days after the immobilization period if they do not pick up the vehicles.

If owners do not pick up their vehicle within 14 days, the court will consider them abandoned motor vehicles. The police are then free to sell them.

Car owners can ask the court for additional time to pay these fees.4

Two cars about to race in violation of CRS 42-4-1105.
Peace officers can arrest drag racers for a class 1 traffic misdemeanor in Colorado.

4. How can an attorney help?

Depending on the case, there are various defenses to fight Colorado speed racing charges. These include the following:

  1. The defendant did not act knowingly. Perhaps the defendant was simply exceeding the speed limit, and the Colorado State Patrol mistook it for a time trial or a race. If the D.A. cannot prove the defendant knowingly engaged in a speed contest or exhibition, CRS 42-4-1105 charges cannot stand. However, the defendant could face other traffic charges.
  2. The car malfunctioned. Maybe an undetected defect in the automobile caused it to accelerate,5 and law enforcement mistakenly arrested the defendant for exhibiting speed (and possibly for eluding the police officer (CRS 42-4-1413)). As long as the defendant did not knowingly cause the unsafe vehicle to speed, the case should be dismissed.
  3. The race was on a private roadway. Driving over a prudent speed on privately-owned roads is not a traffic crime. As long as the race or exhibition did not occur on public property, the D.A. should drop the case. But depending on the situation, defendants may face other charges such as reckless endangerment (CRS 18-3-208).

Typical evidence in these cases include eyewitnesses, video footage, GPS records, and testimony by experts on cars, wheel skids (visible tire acceleration marks), and other racing-related matters.

Note that the following explanations are not defenses to CRS 42-4-1105 charges:

  • The defendant had a valid driver's license, license plate or vehicle registration;
  • No one bet on the race;
  • There were no accidents and no bodily injury;
  • There was no DUI (driving under the influence), and the driver's blood alcohol content was legal;
  • The race did not affect emergency vehicles, commercial vehicles, school buses, or other service vehicles.

5. Can the record be sealed?

No. Colorado law does not permit misdemeanor traffic offenses to be sealed. They remain on the defendant's criminal record forever.6 This is why it is vital for defendants facing CRS 42-4-1105 charges to seek legal counsel right away. It may be possible to get the charges dismissed completely.

6. When are speed races or exhibitions legal?

CRS 42-4-1105 does not apply to lawfully organized and licensed commercial races on authorized race tracks, courses, or drag strips.7 Examples include:

6. Related offenses

  • Reckless driving (CRS 42-4-1401): This is driving in "reckless" disregard of other people's safety. As a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, it carries 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
  • Careless driving (CRS 42-4-1402): This is driving without the proper regard for the road and surroundings. Also a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, the sentence is 10 to 90 days in jail, and/or $150 to $300 in fines.
  • Speeding (CRS 42-4-1101): Exceeding the posted speed limit is usually a traffic infraction. Penalties typically include fines and DMV license suspension points.
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For legal help call 303-222-0330.

In California? Learn about speed contests (VC 23109) and speed ex (VC 23109(c)).

In Nevada? Learn about drag racing (NRS 484B.653).

Legal References

  1. Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1401 CRS. See also People v. Heckard, 164 Colo. 19, 431 P.2d 1014 (1967).
  2. Same.
  3. Same.
  4. Same.
  5. Brian Ross, Joseph Rhee, Angela M. Hill, Megan Chuchmach And Aaron Katersky, Toyota to Pay $1.2B for Hiding Deadly ‘Unintended Acceleration', ABC News (March 19, 2014).
  6. CRS 24-72.
  7. CRS 42-4-1401.

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