"Racing" and "Exhibition of Speed" are two separate charges originating from the same statute, A.R.S. § 28-708(A).
What is Racing?
Racing on a street or highway in Arizona is prohibited by A.R.S. § 28-708(A). This law states “A person shall not drive a vehicle or participate in any manner in a race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance or exhibition of speed or acceleration or for the purpose of making a speed record on a street or highway.”
What is Exhibition of Speed?
Exhibition of speed is prohibited by the same sentence from the same statute, A.R.S. § 28-708(A): “A person shall not drive a vehicle or participate in any manner in a race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance or exhibition of speed or acceleration or for the purpose of making a speed record on a street or highway.”
What's the difference between Racing and Exhibition of Speed?
As you probably guessed, racing generally involves 2 or more cars. We generally see a racing charge arising from two cars racing each other away from a stoplight or engaging in an acceleration contest on the highway.
We usually see exhibition of speed charges involving only a single car. Things like squealing tires around a corner, doing a burnout, doing donuts, or accelerating hard away from a stop sign or light can result in an exhibition of speed charge.
Although the statute is the same, the description the citing officer writes on the ticket (either "racing" or "exhibition of speed") depends upon the factual basis for the charge.
What are the consequences of a conviction?
Racing and exhibition of speed are both class 1 misdemeanors. If convicted, the statute mandates that a driver pay a fine of not less than $250. The court may order the driver to perform community restitution (community service) too. However, the $250 is just the minimum fine. Because these charges are class 1 misdemeanors, the potential maximum fine is $2,500, plus surcharges which could nearly double the total fine amount. A class 1 misdemeanor also carries the potential for up to 6 months in jail plus probation. Additionally, the court may suspend driving privileges for up to 90 days.
As of April 2021, a driver who receives a racing/exhibition of speed ticket (or reckless driving ticket) in the city of Phoenix will have his vehicle impounded for 30 days. See here for more details on the impound. Also note - the car impound will happen when the ticket is issued, regardless of whether or not the charge is later reduced or dismissed.
What are the consequences of a second conviction?
A driver who is convicted of racing a second time faces a minimum fine of $500 as well as the possibility of community restitution. If the second conviction is within 24 months of the first, the driver “is guilty of a class 6 felony and is not eligible for probation, pardon, suspension of sentence or release on any other basis until the person has served not less than ten days in jail or prison.” That means the driver will do a mandatory 10 days in jail upon being convicted a second time within 24 months. Additionally, the driver's license shall be revoked. When a license is revoked, the driver must reapply for a license when the revocation period ends.
Motor Vehicle Division Consequences
In addition to the consequences identified above, if a driver is convicted of racing or exhibition of speed, the court will notify the MVD who will assess 8 points on the driver’s license. This will trigger an order from the MVD that the driver attend an 8-hour traffic survival school class, in person (not online). If the driver has taken traffic survival school within the last 24 months, the MVD will just suspend the driver's license because of the 8 points.
Local governments in Phoenix and the surrounding areas are particularly focussed on racing-related activity these days. This is likely due to a string of serious accidents resulting from alleged street racing including:
In February 2020, two cars were street racing on the SR-51 at speeds in excess of 100 mph. One of the drivers in an Audi TT lost control, ran off the highway and collided with a concrete retaining wall. The car disintegrated, killing the 18-year-old driver and scattering car parts all over the highway.
In August 2019, a Scottsdale man driving a Lamborghini Gallardo was engaged in a street race with a BMW at over 100 mph. The 22-year-old driver of the BMW lost control and collided with another car, killing the 68-year-old female driver. The Scottsdale man was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Local governments and law enforcement agencies are also concerned about what they term, "illegal car meetups" - basically people obstructing traffic and creating dangerous situations on roads. These illegal meetups often involve racing or exhibitions of speed. AZFamily.com provided this video which shows people blocking intersections so other can do donuts in the intersection (exhibition of speed),as well as people lighting fireworks on highways and jumping on trucks.
In our opinion, high-profile accidents and the outrageous behavior of a few people have made police more sensitive to any perceived racing or exhibition of speed violations by the everyday motorist.
At the start of 2020, Phoenix Police Department received a $100,000 grant to stop street racing. This $100k is being used to fund a task force of over 25 people, including aircraft and helicopter usage. We have seen in our cases examples of the police calling in air support to track a suspect who tries to flee at high speed from the police. The police are willing to involve considerable resources to prevent street racing.
Contesting a Racing or Exhibition of Speed Charge
Sometimes we see really undeserved exhibition of speed charges for things like chirping tires around a corner or off the line at a light - things that are an oversight or moment of inattention by a driver that resulted in a tire losing traction briefly. This is very different than a driver who lays 50 feet of rubber as they rocket off the line in a cloud of tire smoke. So there is always the question of do the facts merit the particular charge.
In every case, we throughly investigate the evidence and look for factual or procedural problems with the State's allegations. We also use our client's background and good character when negotiating with the State to improve the outcome in a case.