A few years ago I handled a vehicle racing case on the Moscow-Pullman Highway, so I figured maybe this might be an opportunity to talk a little bit about street racing and the legal consequences. Washington state law RCW 46.61.530 provides that the racing of vehicles constitutes reckless driving even if the vehicles do not exceed the speeding limit. The reason the law applies even when the speed limits are not broken is that even the rapid acceleration of vehicles can pose a danger and that the contest itself provides the motivation to drivers to violate other traffic rules (such as stop signs, yield signs, etc.) “Racing” is defined as “willfully comparing relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles.”
The law doesn’t just apply to muscle cars. In the matter that I handled, one driver was operating a 1987 Toyota MR2, and the other was driving a 2008 Jeep Patriot. Since the 1990’s street racing has been a part of American culture. The practice’s popularity started in south Florida, and spread to California and the rest of the country. In Washington state, the offense is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. If a person is injured as a result of the racing, the offense is classified as Vehicular Assault. A conviction for Vehicular Assault is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and even first time offenders can find themselves serving a year or more in prison. If a person is killed as a result of the racing, the punishments can be even greater, and the offense is classified as Vehicular Homicide.
Often in street racing cases, the competition or race is discussed in social media, or at least discussed by text messages. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, police and prosecuting attorneys can subpoena records of discussions about street racing. Even when a discussion is “deleted” it still remains on the company servers for months. Some arrests for street racing turn into broader criminal investigations into auto-theft, drugs, or trafficking stolen auto parts.