Racing and Exhibition of Speed

What is Racing?

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.

A.R.S. § 28-708(A)

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.

Do you have to be speeding to get a racing ticket?

In short, no, one does not need to be speeding to get a racing ticket. Speeding and racing tickets often go together, but not always. The racing statute doesn’t actually include any language about speed. All that is required is a contest of speed, or a display of speed.

Sometimes we see cases where two cars race from a standstill, but let off the gas as they approach the speed limit. We have also seen cases where a driver was ticketed for exhibition of speed for doing a burnout while never exceeding the speed limit.

Exhibition of Speed
An Exhibition of Speed

What are the consequences of a first conviction?

Racing and exhibition of speed are both class 1 misdemeanors. If convicted, a driver faces the following consequences:

Minimum consequences for a first conviction include:

  • Mandatory fine of not less than $250. Add in court surcharges and assessments, and that gets close to $500.

Maximum potential consequences for a first conviction include:

  • All of the minimum consequences noted above, plus:
  • The potential maximum fine is $2,500 plus surcharges. Surcharges and court assessments will nearly double the fine amount.
  • Up to 6 months in jail.
  • Up to 3 years probation.
  • Court may suspend driving privileges for up to 90 days.
  • May be ordered to perform community restitution (community service).

What are the consequences of a second conviction?

A conviction that occurs within 24 months of another racing or exhibition of speed conviction counts becomes a class 6 felony. A driver who is convicted a second time faces the following consequences:

Minimum consequences for a second conviction include:

  • Could be charged as a misdemeanor not a felony.
  • Mandatory fine of not less than $500. Add in court surcharges and assessments, and that gets close to $1,000.
  • Mandatory 10 days jail (assuming no prior felony convictions).
  • 1-year mandatory license suspension. May be eligible for restricted license after 45 days.

Maximum potential consequences for a second conviction include:

  • All of the minimum consequences noted above, plus:
  • Fines up to $150,000 (for a class 6 felony). If charged as a misdemeanor, the potential maximum fine is $2,500 plus surcharges. Surcharges and court assessments will nearly double the fine amount.
  • Up to 2 years in prison.
  • Probation.
  • May be ordered to perform community restitution (community service).

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.

Vehicle Impound

In Phoenix

Effective April 2021, the city of Phoenix enacted a law that permits Phoenix Police to impound a vehicle if the driver is charged with racing or exhibition of speed. Yes, you read that correctly. The driver does not have to be convicted, just charged. So even if the charge is later dismissed, the driver still has to deal with the 30 day impound.

In the rest of Arizona

In 2021, Arizona enacted a law similar to Phoenix’s, but less punitive. See A.R.S. 28-3511(A)(3). The state law says that if law enforcement determines that the driver was racing or engaging in an exhibition of speed, then the officer shall impound the vehicle. This presents all of the same issues that the Phoenix law does. Specifically, it allows for the impounding of an innocent driver’s vehicle without any due process. Here though, the impound is for 20 days, not for 30 days. After the 20 days run, the driver may go retrieve the vehicle with their valid driver license and proof of registration.

Political Motivations for Racing and Exhibition of Speed Charges

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 for example:

  • 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. 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.

Aiding or Abetting

 A person who knowingly aids or abets another person in the commission of a violation of this section is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor, except that a second or subsequent violation within a period of twenty-four months is a class 1 misdemeanor

A.R.S. 28-708(C)

The aiding or abetting part of the statute is new in 2021. This addition appears to be targeted at people who facilitate or encourage racing or exhibition of speed. Examples of aiding or abetting include:

  • Drivers who park their vehicles to block access to an intersection so that another driver may do donuts in the intersection.
  • People who encourage or “egg on” drivers in a race or intersection takeover.

We have seen over-zealous applications of the aiding and abetting language result in innocent bystanders being arrested. The situation usually involves a driver who happens to be in the area when something goes down, and law enforcement wrongfully stops them and arrests them. We have had good luck with getting the charges dismissed in these situations.

If someone is charged with aiding or abetting, they may receive a second criminal charge for obstruction as well if they were blocking the road in any manner.

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.

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