Racing is a Crime

Racing in Virginia (Va. Code §46.2-865) is a form of reckless driving, and can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Racing is a contest of speed between two or more vehicles on the highways of Virginia and the penalties are severe.

Virginia Code §46.2-865 reads:

Any person who engages in a race between two or more motor vehicles on the highways in the Commonwealth or on any driveway or premises of a church, school, recreational facility, or business property open to the public in the Commonwealth shall be guilty of reckless driving, unless authorized by the owner of the property or his agent. When any person is convicted of reckless driving under this section, in addition to any other penalties provided by law the driver’s license of such person shall be suspended by the court for a period of not less than six months nor more than two years. In case of conviction the court shall order the surrender of the license to the court where it shall be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of § 46.2-398.

How can the Commonwealth prove racing?

Racing is a contest of speed between two or more motor vehicles.  The Commonwealth must prove that there were at least two drivers involved to classify the offense as a “race.”  If an officer can testify two cars are driving very fast and one car attempts to pass the other car, this may be enough.  The prosecutors rely heavily on admissions of the drivers to properly distinguish the case from one of simple speeding or reckless driving by speed.


Misdemeanor Racing Charge

Racing in Virginia under Va. Code §46.2-865 is a Class 1 misdemeanor.  It is punished with up to 12 months in jail, a fine up to $2500, mandatory driver’s license suspension for 6 months to 2 years, and 6 DMV demerit points.   An owner of a vehicle engaged in a race can also have his car seized and forfeited if he was present in the vehicle engaged in the race, another person was driving, and he knowingly consented to the race (Va. Code §46.2-867(ii)). A person’s driver’s license will be revoked for 5 years if he is convicted of a fourth racing charge offense (Va. Code §46.2-394).

Va. Code §46.2-866 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to aid or abet a race in Virginia.  It is punished by a jail sentence up to 12 months, a fine of up to $2500, or both.

Felony Racing Charge

If a race results in injury or death, the Virginia racing charge becomes a felony.  Virginia Code §46.2-865.1 reads:

A. Any person who, while engaging in a race in violation of § 46.2-865 in a manner so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life:
1. Causes serious bodily injury to another person who is not involved in the violation of § 46.2-865 is guilty of a Class 6 felony; or
2. Causes the death of another person is guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one nor more than 20 years, one year of which shall be a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment.
B. Upon conviction, the court shall suspend the driver’s license of such person for a period of not less than one year nor more than three years, and shall order the surrender of the license to be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of § 46.2-398.

If the driver behaves in a manner so gross, wanton, and culpable to show a reckless disregard for human life, he faces a Class 6 felony which carries up to 5 years in prison.  If his disregard results in the death of another person he can be punished with 1-20 years in prison.  In addition to prison, a felony racing charge is punished with driver’s license suspension for 1-3 years, 6 demerit points with the DMV, and seizure and forfeiture of the vehicle involved in the race.

Collateral Consequences

Beyond the immediate penalties associated with a conviction for racing, other collateral consequences are also at play. Insurance premiums are likely to increase.  Your education or employment opportunities may be hindered: if you are subject to a background check for employment, security clearance, or immigration, a racing conviction could affect your future.

If you find yourself charged with racing in Virginia, contact an experienced Virginia attorney. An initial consultation with a TATE BYWATER attorney is complimentary.  We’ll discuss your case and work with you to obtain the best possible outcome.  We’re here to help!