"I understand that good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations."

Living Dangerously: Racing on Greater Phoenix Freeways and Streets

by Aaron M. Black • July 19, 2021

If you drive the 101, 202 or the 303 a lot you might have seen a speeding car zipping in and out of traffic and taking chances. You may have seen two cars doing that together. Either way you have witnessed the dangerous activity of racing on greater Phoenix freeways.

Phoenix Freeway & Street Racing

For example, on a night in January of 2021 motorists were seen traveling at a high rate of speed on westbound I-10 near the I-17 split. The driver of one of the cars, a Volkswagen, lost control while approaching the Buckeye Road exit, crossed all traffic lanes and slammed into a cement barrier seriously injuring the driver.

A passenger got out of the car and laid in the HOV lane and was run over by another vehicle sustaining serious injuries.

A witnesses told Department of Public Safety officers that the Volkswagen was racing with two other cars. One of them, a blue Nissan Maxima or an Altima, stopped and one of its passengers got out to talk briefly with an occupant in the Volkswagen.

Sometimes no other vehicles are involved and racers are running against the clock.

The other form of speed contests are illegal drag racing events on the streets. Racers gather attracting spectators at the starting and finishing points and race side-by-side. These events are organized and publicized on Facebook and message boards.

Central Avenue in Phoenix is a popular venue for drag racers. This type of racing is also deadly. In 2016 three racers were killed on Central Avenue near Butler Drive.

Arizona’s street racing law

Racing on our streets is a violation of Arizona Revised Statute §28-708 that states all types of racing on public roads.” This law is a class 1 misdemeanor. In these cases, the state also will add speeding and reckless driving offenses.

A second conviction within 24 months of the first increases the offense to a class 6 felony, the lowest of that range.

If someone was hurt or killed because of the speed contest the state can charge felonies for endangerment, negligent homicide or vehicular manslaughter, and the victim or his or her family can sue in civil court for monetary damages.

Legal highway racing events

The law does allow for proper racing venues with a special event permit. Organized and properly controlled racing events using a highway, or a portion of a highway, can be legally held with approval from the director of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). The director may impose special conditions upon the event.

Impounding vehicles used in illegal racing

The Phoenix City Council in March 2021 approved a new ordinance that gave the Phoenix police the authority to impound racing vehicles for as long as 30 days to discourage illegal racing. The owner pays for the impoundment fees which can be expensive. Those who do not pay the fees give the impound lot the legal right to sell the vehicle.

Defenses for racing charges

Your defense begins at the traffic stop. You cannot talk yourself out of the situation and anything you say will squeeze yourself into a corner and will become evidence to be used against you.

We all have the Constitutional right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. You also have the right to have an attorney representing you during police interrogation under the Sixth Amendment. The officer upon arresting a suspect must recite these “Miranda rights” at the time of arrest, so it is best to invoke them at the outset. If they are not recited by the arresting officer the charge will be dismissed.

Every situation has its unique set of facts that determine the best possible defense strategy.

It might have been possible that the officer did not see a second vehicle which would establish that a speed competition did not occur. A speeding violation in that situation is the officer’s only recourse. It also might be possible that you did not know another driver was racing you. A driver might have exhibited aggressive behavior in road rage fashion, so the defendant drove in fear to escape the hostile motorist, raising a self-defense strategy.

Police are human and can make mistakes. A police report, which is strong states evidence, might contain misstatements or factual errors. And it might be that flaws in forensic evidence occurred.

Punishments for freeway racing in Phoenix

A class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious of misdemeanor offenses. A first misdemeanor violation is punished by as long as six months in jail, a fine of at least $250 and a term of community restitution.

Upon a second or subsequent violation within 24 months of the first, the charge is elevated to a class 6 felony. A person convicted of this felony charge is not eligible for probation, a pardon, or sentence suspension. Release is not possible until the person has served at least 10 days in custody. The fine is doubled to $500.

The defendant’s Arizona license to drive can be suspended for up to 90 days for a first conviction; and a second and subsequent convictions within 24 months, the license can be revoked.

In cases of “extreme hardship”, the judge may provide in the sentence that if the defendant is employed or in school, they can continue in those responsibilities for no longer than 12 hours a day over five days a week. The remainder of the time will be in custody until the sentence is served.

Cases that raise the offense to felony charges ushers in far more serious penalties.

Convicted felons lose the Second Amendment right to own and possess a firearm, the right to vote in elections or hold public office. An application to enroll in college will be denied. Those who hold professional licenses face suspension or revocation, thus ending a career. Landlords have a duty to protect their residents and can refuse to rent felons a place to live. Employers can refuse to hire felons. And a felony conviction follows the person for life.

Beginning your Phoenix freeway racing defense

Do not let a mistake derail your life. It is crucial to seek an experienced criminal defense attorney, such as myself, at the earliest possible time while the event is still top of mind. In your defense, Aaron M. Black law will launch an independent investigation into the facts alleged in the police report and the witness’ statements. The goal is always to earn a dismissal of all charges by establishing a reasonable doubt.

Should the state have a strong case, I will work to achieve that best possible plea agreement to lesser charges.

Aaron M. Black Law has a long record to aggressively defending clients and providing personalize legal services so you will be talking directly to me throughout the case, not an assistant.

Start your defense today by calling 480-729-1683 at any time, day or night, weekends or holidays and I will promptly respond unless I am in court or in trial. You may also use my online contact form.

I defend criminal cases in justice, municipal, state, and federal courts in and adjacent to Maricopa County.

About Aaron M. Black

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