Santa Clara County, California Drag Racing Laws Explained

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

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If you feel the need for speed and go drag racing in Santa Clara County, California you could wind up driving straight to jail.

“Speed Contests” and “Exhibitions of Speed” 

California Vehicle Code Section 23109 makes drag racing, or what it refers to as a “speed contest,” on a public California street or highway a crime. Specifically, Section 23109(a) prohibits “a motor vehicle race against another vehicle, a clock, or other timing device.”

California's drag racing statute specifically excludes from the definition of “speed contest” an event where participants measure the amount of time it takes for a vehicle to cover a given route, so long as:

  • the route is more than twenty (20) miles, and
  • the vehicle does not exceed the speed limit during the event.

Section 23109 also prohibits any “exhibition of speed” on a public road or highway, so you can be charged under this statute even if there is only one car involved. The statute defines an “exhibition of speed” as when a driver “accelerates or drives at a rate of speed that is dangerous and unsafe in order to show off or make an impression on someone else.” Section 23109(c).

It's not just drivers who can be charged with a drag racing offense under California law. “Aiding and abetting” a speed contest or exhibition of speed is a crime, so those who time a race or show of speed or those who facilitate or erect barriers to allow the race can face charges as well. Section 23109(b) and (c).

Santa Clara County Drag Racing Jail Sentences

Every driver charged with a violation of Section 23109 in Santa Clara County faces the possibility of spending time in Santa Clara County Jail.

In addition to fines, community service, the impounding of your car, and the loss of driving privileges, possible jail sentences for a drag racing conviction include:

  • Speed Contests:
    • First offense: at least 24 hours and no more than 90 days in Santa Clara County Jail
    • Second or subsequent offense (within previous 5 years): at least 4 days and up to six 6 months in Santa Clara County Jail
    • Offense that results in bodily injury (to someone other than the driver): at least 30 days and no more than 6 months in county jail (but it could be significantly more if it results in “serious” bodily injury and the offense is charged as California felony)
  • Exhibitions of Speed
    • Up to 90 days in Santa Clara County Jail if charged as a misdemeanor (rather than as an infraction)

Aiding and abetting or erecting barricades to facilitate either a speed contest or exhibition of speed are also misdemeanors and can result in up to 90 days in jail.

A Santa Clara County drag racing conviction can keep you off the road for a long time, even if you don't get sentenced to any jail time. However, there are a number of defenses to such charges that our skilled Santa Clara County criminal defense attorneys can assert on your behalf. Give us a call today to discuss your case. (For Nevada law, see our article, "What happens if I'm arrested for street racing in Las Vegas?")



About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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