“The cop said I was racing! I don’t know what he is talking about!”
We hear this statement all the time in our office. People come in and are outraged because the police have treated them like they were street racing when all they were doing was slightly speeding, and someone else just happens to also be speeding near them on the road. It sounds like the majority of commutes that we all experience everyday. The police allegation of “racing” raises the law enforcement contact from an infraction to a crime. “Racing” is a Gross Misdemeanor, the same level crime as a DUI. If convicted, there is a mandatory license suspension and then typically the requirement of high risk insurance.
The Definition of Racing Is As Follows:
RCW 46.61.530 – Racing of vehicles on highways—Reckless driving.
No person or persons may race any motor vehicle or motor vehicles upon any public highway of this state. Any person or persons who willfully compare or contest relative speeds by operation of one or more motor vehicles shall be guilty of racing, which shall constitute reckless driving under RCW 46.61.500, whether or not such speed is in excess of the maximum speed prescribed by law.
The problem with this definition, or at least how police apply this definition, is the fact that law enforcement forgets the element of “willfully compare.” If two people are just heading to work, and both happen to be speeding, how would any officer know that the individuals are “willfully comparing” speed? “Willfully” means that the actors have intent, or “criminal intent,” which is necessary for most crimes. Maybe they are just both speeding. Maybe there is no intent to race. It doesn’t seem to matter. Law enforcement always writes these up as Racing, even though there is no proof that they were intentionally comparing speeds.
Can The State Prove Intent?
It is the State’s burden to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the elements of criminal cases. With Racing cases, there is rarely evidence of intent. So in essence, law enforcement is “burden shifting” – meaning that the accused defendant needs to come in and testify that there was no intent. For some reason, Courts allow law enforcement and the Prosecutor to get away with it. If you are speeding and get accused of “Racing” you need a strong defense. You need to put the burden back where it belongs – on the State. With a good defense, the State can not prove the element of intent.
At Witt Law Group we fight Reckless Driving / Racing charges and we are there for our clients at each step of the process. It is a stressful process and we want our clients to rest assured that their futures are in good hands. We answer the phones in the evenings and throughout the weekends. We handle Reckless Driving cases in Kitsap, Jefferson and Pierce Counties and all the municipalities therein. Call our offices in Gig Harbor at (253) 312-3838 or Bremerton at (360) 792-1000, for a free consultation, or click here for our online contact form. Thanks for reading!