Reckless driving in New York occurs when an individual is driving a vehicle in such a way as to unreasonably interfere with the use of public streets or unreasonably endanger the lives of other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. This allows for a wide range of behaviors to fall under the heading of reckless driving.

A racing charge is a form of reckless driving charge. It specifies the type of reckless action the driver was taking. The extreme speeds involved in racing can easily lead to serious accidents, often lethal accidents and so law enforcement take racing violations very seriously. Racing also violates insurance agreements and together this can cause a reckless driving charge for racing to spiral out into several related charges or consequences.

What Counts as Racing in New York?

Illegal racing is defined in New York’s statute (VTL 1182):

  • 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.

This definition is quite enlightening. It points out that racing in New York is not itself illegal. In fact, those involved in a legal race are actually exempted from certain traffic laws. So not only can racing be legal but it actually can then supersede other laws.

But we’re concerned about illegal racing in New York. This definition makes it clear that for a race to be legal the event must be patrolled over the entirety of the ‘track.” For this to occur there must be a plan for the distance to be raced and safety mechanisms be put in place. Much illegal racing occurs spontaneously and thus there is no plan in place prior to the race beginning.

Some races may be planned and still be illegal. If somebody tells you to meet at a certain location to race, then there is a plan being used. But if there is no security in place to patrol the planned route then the race is still illegal.

What are the Penalties for Racing in New York?

Racing in New York is only a misdemeanor offense but this doesn’t mean you should take the charge lightly. There are financial penalties which you will face, as well as the potential for spending time behind bars in jail. These penalties grow much worse if you are convicted of a racing charge a second time within the year. Penalties you may face are:

  • Criminal Record: Having a permanent criminal record can make it harder to get a job, find a home or many other tasks which you might need to do to get by. Because racing is a misdemeanor crime in New York it means that a conviction will follow you the rest of your life on your permanent criminal record.
  • Fine: Racing in New York will result in a fine between $300 and $525. However, if you are convicted a second time within the year then you will face a steeper fine between $525 and $750.
  • Jail: Your first racing charge could result in up to 30 days in jail. Most people don’t take this into consideration because a misdemeanor crime doesn’t sound very serious. But jail time is always something that should be taken seriously. If you are convicted a second time within a year of the first conviction then you may face up to six months or half a year in jail.
  • License Revocation: A racing conviction could see your license revoked. Not suspended, revoked. At the end of the revocation period you would have to reapply for a license. Because racing charges often result in revocation there are points taken off the license.
  • Surcharge: There is a surcharge of between $88 and $93, in addition to the fine, depending on where in the state of New York the offense was committed.
  • Insurance Impact: Getting a traffic ticket in general will see an increase in your auto insurance. Racing offenses are among the worst charges you can get when it comes to insurance as they can raise the price of your insurance nearly 75%! Your insurance may also refuse to cover accidents relating to racing.

What Defenses are there for Racing in New York?

There are a few defenses which can be taken when faced with a racing charge in New York.

The first defense is to say that you were not racing. This argues the fact that simply because you were speeding next to another vehicle, it doesn’t mean that you were racing them. This defense fully admits to speeding while fighting against the idea that you were racing.

Another defense is to argue that there was no planned racecourse. As we’ve seen above, New York’s statute clearly invokes the idea that there is a planned route involved in the race. This defense is famously used in People v. Grund where it was argued that while the two cars left an intersection at speed and then jockeyed for position, they were not racing because there was no intended course.

These defense tactics focus on the definition of racing to show that the defendant may have been speeding or driving recklessly but that they were not racing as defined by New York’s statute.

What Should I Do if I’m Faced With a Racing Charge in New York?

If you are faced with a racing charge then you’ll want to get an attorney that knows what to do. They will help you fight the charge and minimize the penalties. Mirsky Law Firm has experience with cases just like yours. Give us a call at (516) 299-6187 or (718) 412-8322 to see how we can help defend you against your racing charge.