In 2011, Steven Rivera, a then-25-year-old Ossining, New York resident was arrested for his participation in a fatal drag racing accident. Reportedly, Rivera and his friend Travis Clark were racing on I-287 in Yonkers. While reaching speeds over 100 mph, Clark lost control of his car and slammed into a signpost, ripping it out of the pavement. Clark and a passenger in his car, Jillisa McCarthy, were killed. Rivera faced three misdemeanors charges: unauthorized speed contest (VTL 1182), reckless endangerment and falsely reporting an incident.
Not all races end in injury or death. However, the serious risk of such is why it is illegal to stage unauthorized races, exhibitions or contests of speed in NY. It is also against the law to participate or aid in any illegal speed contest of motor vehicles.
Penalties for Racing in New York
Participating in a street race in NY is a class A misdemeanor offense, punishable with a fine of $300 to $525. A conviction can also mean up to 30 days in jail. Subsequent racing convictions carry more severe consequences. Exact penalties are as follows:
Criminal Record: Racing in New York State is a misdemeanor and a conviction means one will have a permanent criminal record. This can make everything from getting a job to finding a home more difficult.
Jail time. A person who is convicted of participating in an unauthorized speed contest can be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail. A second conviction within 12 months can result in up to six months in jail.
License Revocation: A driver convicted of racing can have his/her license revoked, pursuant to VTL 510-2a. This is more serious than a suspension, as the driver must reapply for a license at the end of the revocation period (and there is a chance the application will be denied).
Fine: NYS fines drivers between $300 and $525 for the first offense of speeding. A second offense within 12 months raises the fine to between $525 and $750.
Points: There are no points associated with a charge of racing because the license is often revoked upon conviction.
Surcharge: In addition to the fine, a driver must pay a mandatory state surcharge of $88 or $93, depending on where the offense occurred.
Auto insurance impact: Most traffic tickets can result in some kind of increase in premiums. Racing is among the worst. According to one study, a conviction for racing can raise rates by 71%! Even worse, many policies strictly forbid participating in street racing and will not cover accidents or injuries resulting from such activity.
What is Considered an Unauthorized Speed Contest (Racing) in NY?
New York State’s statute on illegal racing (VTL 1182) reads as follows:
- Except as provided in section eleven hundred eighty-two-a of this article or section sixteen hundred thirty, sixteen hundred forty, sixteen hundred forty-two or sixteen hundred sixty of this chapter, no races, exhibitions or contests of speed shall be held and no person shall engage in or aid or abet in any motor vehicle or other speed contest or exhibition of speed on a highway. Such event, if held, shall be fully and efficiently patrolled for the entire distance over which such race, exhibition or contest for speed is to be held. Participants in a race, exhibition or contest of speed are exempted from compliance with any traffic laws otherwise applicable thereto, but shall exercise reasonable care. A violation of any of the provisions of this section shall constitute a misdemeanor and be punishable by imprisonment of not more than thirty days or a fine of not less than three hundred dollars nor more than five hundred twenty-five dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.
- A second conviction within twelve months of a violation of this section shall be punishable by imprisonment of not more than six months or a fine of not less than five hundred twenty-five dollars nor more than seven hundred fifty dollars, or both such fine and imprisonment.
According to the New York State Department of Transportation, there is no formal definition for “speed contest.” Instead, a speed contest is generally considered to be any event where having the fastest completion time is the goal and the participant(s) are competing against either a timer, other racers, or both.
Defenses to Racing Charges in NY
There are two defenses that are extremely important to keep in mind when trying to beat a racing ticket.
First and foremost, “simply speeding down the street, even in tandem with another vehicle, does not constitute a ‘speed contest’ within the meaning of the statute.” Mic Property & Casualty Corp. v. Avila, 65 AD 3d 1303.
Additionally, in People v. Grund, 14 NY2d 32, the court ruled that a
“[v]iolation of this statute means that, at least by implication, some racecourse must have been planned by the competitors along a street. It is not enough that an automobile operated by defendant and one by his codefendant left an intersection abreast when the traffic light changed to green and, thereafter, traveled abreast at about 55 miles an hour, each car jockeying for position.”
These New York cases help drivers tremendously. Based on them, one’s first line of defense is saying that no one had planned out a racecourse and there was no intention of racing.
Second, a driver can point to the Grund decision and explain that simply speeding next to another car is not enough to be convicted of VTL 1182.
Why Hire an Attorney for a Racing Ticket in NY?
If a driver who hires a traffic ticket attorney to fight his/her case, a prosecutor may be inclined to give him/her a tremendous amount of deference and allow for the consolidation of several tickets. For example, it is common for drivers accused of racing to get three tickets at the same time: one for racing, another for speeding, and a third for reckless driving. An experienced traffic ticket attorney may be able to get the racing ticket knocked out entirely, have the reckless driving penalties lowered, and all the driver would be left with is the sting of the speeding ticket. However, if a driver who goes to court on his/her own, the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.
Racing Tickets and Auto Accidents
Any traffic ticket related to an accident can add to one’s civil liability in a lawsuit. This is particularly true of racing, as the extreme speeds can lead to serious and often lethal accidents. Because racing is a violation of one’s insurance agreement, that means one’s insurer will often refuse to cover any costs associated with a racing-related accident. As such, the driver will be personally liable for lawsuits that can often settle for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. However, if he/she hires an attorney and is able to reduce the charge to a speeding ticket or another less-serious charge, that person will have a better chance of having some liability covered by insurance.
It’s worth noting that even if a racing ticket is reduced to a mere speeding ticket, that conviction can still be used against him/her in a civil lawsuit. The only way to prevent a traffic ticket from being used against one in a lawsuit is to be found not guilty of all charges at trial. This may be difficult in most cases, but without an attorney by one’s side, it is impossible.
NY Racing Tickets and Out of State Drivers
Living in and being licensed to drive in another state does not mean one can ignore a New York traffic ticket. Racing tickets, in particular, are serious. The Driver’s License Compact—an interstate agreement that allows licensing authorities to communicate traffic convictions across state lines—ensures that most states will suspend the license of a driver convicted of an offense in another state that would result in an automatic suspension at home. In many states, racing would fall under that category.
An out-of-state driver who is charged with racing in NY must hire an attorney licensed to practice law in NY. While many traffic tickets do not require a driver to appear in court if he/she hires an attorney, cases involving racing tickets may not qualify.
Common Questions About Racing Tickets in New York?
- Why is unauthorized street racing considered dangerous?
Street racing is permitted when organizations such as the National Hot Rod Association or similar groups organize and plan the races. However, these groups often go to great lengths to minimize the possibility of collateral damage and risk to drivers and bystanders. They do this by getting permission from local authorities to temporarily close streets and barricade off designated areas for audiences.
By contrast, an unauthorized street race takes place on roads being used by other drivers who are not aware of or expecting there to be a race. As such, there is a much bigger risk of crashing into other vehicles, property, or people. The high speeds at which most cars race increases the force of impact on such crashes by several orders of magnitude. Far too many known cases of racing in New York have resulted in permanent injury or death.
- Is street racing considered reckless driving?
Racing and reckless driving are two separate offenses. A driver who is caught participating in an illegal street race can be charged with both.
- How many points is a ticket for racing in NY?
New York State does not assess points for racing. Instead, it will take the more extreme measure of revoking one’s license entirely upon conviction.
- Can I be charged with racing if I wasn’t exceeding the speed limit?
Yes, a driver can be charged with racing even if he/she was not going over the posted speed limit. The statute for VTL 1182 does not specify that one must be driving at a high rate of speed, merely that the driver is participating in a contest of speed on a predetermined track.
- Can I get special insurance for racing?
A driver who wishes to participate in a legal and authorized street race can purchase special insurance for that purpose. This would be an additional premium or a separate policy on top of one’s existing insurance. However, it is not likely to cover instances of unauthorized racing.
Who Should I Contact for Help with a NY Racing Ticket?
If you have been charged with New York VTL 1182 or any other NY traffic violation, call Rosenblum Law today. Our team of experienced and aggressive New York traffic lawyers can help you. Email or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation.