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Vehicle Code 23109 – Speed Contest

Relevant portion of statute:

23109.(a) A person shall not engage in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway. As used in this section, a motor vehicle speed contest includes a motor vehicle race against another vehicle, a clock, or other timing device. For purposes of this section, an event in which the time to cover a prescribed route of more than 20 miles is measured, but where the vehicle does not exceed the speed limits, is not a speed contest.

(b) A person shall not aid or abet in any motor vehicle speed contest on any highway.

(d) A person shall not for the purpose of facilitating or aiding or as an incident to any motor vehicle speed contest or exhibition upon a highway in any manner obstruct or place a barricade or obstruction or assist or participate in placing a barricade or obstruction upon any highway.

Basic Info:

This section makes it illegal to engage in vehicle racing activities on public roads. Each subsection of VC 23109 makes it illegal to perform different aspects of racing activity. This crime is a misdemeanor offense and carries two points that will be assessed to a defendant's driving record upon conviction.


Under subsection (a), a defendant can be sentenced to a minimum of 24 hours,and a maximum of 6 months in county jail. A defendant can also be punished by through the imposition of a fine which ranges from $355 to $1000. The court can also impose a combination of fines and jail time as the sentence. In addition to jail or fines, the section makes it mandatory that an offender participate in 40 hours of community service. A sentence will be increased if the defendant caused injury as a result of his/her actions, or for having a prior conviction under VC 23109. A conviction also carries the consequence of a license suspension for 90 days to six months, although it is sometimes possible to get a restricted license for travel to and from work.

A person convicted under subsection (b) and (d) can potentially be sentenced to jail time for a maximum of 90 days, or by a fine of up to $500. A defendant convicted of these subsections can also be sentenced to a combination of jail time and fines.

Proving the case:

In order for the prosecution to prevail on a charge of VC 23109(c), it must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. That the defendant drove a vehicle on a highway, and
  2. The defendant willfully participated in a speed contest with the vehicle.

Explanation of the Law:

  • The second element's requirement of “willful” conduct means that the defendant had an intent to perform the act, or did so with the purpose to carry out the act in mind. The defendant does not have to form the intent to violate the law, to cause injury, or to obtain any sort of benefit out of the activity.
  • The term “speed contest” means that the defendant operated the vehicle in a manner intended to race against another vehicle or to race the vehicle in reference to a timing device, such as a clock.
  • The first element's use of the term “highway” means that any public road is covered by this section. Even a residential street can be considered a highway since it is a public road used for the passage of vehicles.
  • A “motor vehicle” can include any type of motorized vehicle such as a car, motorcycle, or even a commercial car or truck.
  • Note that a person accused of engaging in a speed contest does not have to reach any particular speed to be found guilty of this offense. Even though events involving higher speeds tend to indicate racing activity, a person can be convicted even if engaging in a relatively low speed contest between two or more vehicles or a timing device.


Exhibition of Speed

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