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Street Racing in Georgia

In Georgia, street racing is generally illegal. In 2021, the Georgia legislature decided to crack down on street racing. It passed several measures making the consequences for a conviction even more severe. As a result, if you are convicted of street racing in Georgia, you are facing the possibility of severe punishment. That said, you are not without options, and it is possible to beat a street racing charge in Georgia.

In this article, you will learn what kinds of street racing behaviors are penalized by Georgia law, what the consequences are for a street racing conviction are, and some ways that you may be able to beat a street racing charge in Georgia.

About the Georgia Street Racing Law

The relevant code section here is O.C.G.A. § 40-6-186. It prohibits driving a vehicle in a "race, speed competition or contest, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, or exhibition of speed or acceleration." It also prohibits driving in an attempt to make a speed record. The law prohibits participating in racing in any way.

The law defines a "drag race" in a few ways. First, a drag race can entail two or more vehicles driving side by side at high speeds in an attempt to outdistance each other. It can also entail one or more vehicles driving along a set course, beginning at the same point, in order to compare speed or acceleration within a certain distance or time limit. 

The law defines "racing" as using one or more vehicles to "outgain, outdistance, or prevent another vehicle from passing, to arrive at a given destination ahead of other vehicles, or to test the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long-distance driving routes."

According to Georgia case law, you do not have to drive as fast as your car can go to be ticketed for racing. In Dodd v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the defendants' convictions even though their vehicles were capable of going faster than the speeds observed by the police. In that case, the police testified that one vehicle was trying to "outrun" the other. Therefore, the Court found sufficient evidence for a conviction. Dodd v. State, 205 Ga. App. 472 (1992).

Consequences for a Street Racing conviction in Georgia

Racing is a misdemeanor offense. That means it carries a maximum penalty of:

  • A fine of up to $1,000 (plus court costs and fees), and
  • A sentence of up to 12 months in jail.

Keep in mind that these are maximum penalties. Many times, a sentence may be served on probation instead of in jail. Judges have a lot of leeway in Georgia courts. In addition to fines and probation, they may also order you to take a defensive driving course or do community service while on probation. 

If you are convicted of racing in Georgia, your actual sentence will depend on the judge and the jurisdiction. For this reason, it can be beneficial to have a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer who is familiar with the jurisdiction and who knows the judges and prosecutors personally.  

In addition to criminal penalties, you will also be facing license penalties for a racing conviction in Georgia. Keep reading to learn more.

License Penalties for a Racing Conviction in Georgia

Racing is considered one of the more serious driving offenses in Georgia. As a result, a conviction for racing will result in serious license consequences with the Department of Driver Services (DDS).

After a first conviction in five (5) years, DDS will suspend your license for twelve (12) months. However, you may apply for early reinstatement of your license after 120 days. To have your license reinstated, you must:

  • Complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program OR a defensive driving course, and
  • Pay a restoration fee of $210 (if paid in person) or $200 (if paid by mail).

After a second serious traffic offense conviction in five (5) years, DDS will suspend your license for three (3) years. You may apply for early reinstatement after 120 days. For reinstatement, you must: 

  • Complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Risk Reduction Program OR a defensive driving course, and
  • Pay a restoration fee of $210 (if paid in person) or $200 (if paid by mail).

After a third conviction for a serious traffic offense in five (5) years, DDS considers you a "habitual violator" and will revoke your license. In general, revocations last for five (5) years. If DDS revokes your license for being a "habitual violator," you may apply for a probationary license after two (2) years. These probationary licenses are sometimes called "hardship" licenses. There are many requirements to applying for a probationary license, and I recommend speaking to a Georgia Traffic Court Attorney to help guide you through this process. Read more about hardship licenses, who is eligible, and how to apply here.

It is important to note that DDS considers pleas of "no contest" (nolo contendere) to be convictions for purposes of this code section. 

Beating a Street Racing Charge in Georgia

Street Racing is considered a serious traffic offense in Georgia. It is one of the rare offenses that results in a license suspension after a single conviction. 

One way to beat a Street Racing charge is to prove that you were not the driver or owner of the vehicle. Under Georgia law, merely being an occupant in a racing car is not enough to support a conviction (although local ordinances may say otherwise). In every Racing case, "the State must prove...wrongful acts against the occupant" of the vehicle. Thus, if a person was merely riding along and did not themselves do anything wrong, a conviction cannot stand. Snell v. McCoy, 135 Ga.App. 832, 219 S.E.2d 482 (1975).

Even if you were the driver, it is essential to remember that an arrest is not a conviction. It is possible to beat a Street Racing charge in Georgia. In many cases, Street Racing charges get dismissed for lack of evidence. Unless the police catch you in the act of street racing, it can be difficult for the State to prove after the fact. 

Street Racing Frequently Asked Questions

Is Street Racing a felony in Georgia?

No. Street racing is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia. That means that it carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine (plus court costs and fees) and a jail term of 12 months. The jail term is not required by law and may be served on probation depending on the judge and jurisdiction.

How much is a Street Racing ticket in Georgia?

If you have only received one street racing ticket and not multiple tickets for multiple offenses, the maximum fine is $1,000.

Can you go to jail for Street Racing in Georgia?

Legally, yes. As a misdemeanor, the maximum jail term is 12 months. However, there is no mandatory minimum jail term for Racing. The judge can order you to serve the entire period on probation. Or the judge may not sentence you to jail or probation and may merely order you to pay a fine.

Why you need a lawyer if you have been charged with Street Racing in Georgia

Street Racing has been a crime in Georgia for a long time. However, in 2021 the State began cracking down on street racers. Police departments, especially in Metro Atlanta, have created task forces and conducted sting operations to make arrests. And prosecutors are also taking the charge very seriously. Don't risk getting the book thrown at you. Remember, you have options, and the State still has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

For that reason, you need an experienced Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer on your side. Our office knows how to find the facts that poke holes in the State's case. Even if you decide that you want to plead out, we know how to effectively negotiate with prosecutors to get you the best deal possible.

If you have been charged with Street Racing in Georgia, get in touch today.

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Kevin Fisher

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