It is illegal in California to participate in a drag race or other exhibition of speed. So why would you ever want to plead guilty to it if you didn’t do it?
The short answer is that by accepting a “speed contest” plea bargain in a DUI case, you avoid the worse penalties that come with a California DUI. The prosecutor knows that driving too fast wasn’t your problem. But when there are weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, they may be willing to let you plead to a speed contest in lieu of a DUI. The prosecutor doesn’t have to risk an acquittal. And you escape without running the risk of a DUI on your record.
1. What is a California “speed contest”?
California Vehicle Code 23109 VC prohibits drivers from doing any of the following on a public road:
- racing against another vehicle,
- racing against a clock or other timing device, or
- intentionally driving at an unsafe speed.
A VC 23109 violation is referred to variously as a:
- speed contest,
- exhibition of speed,
- speed ex, or simply
2. Advantages of a California DUI “speed contest” plea bargain
Even though it might not reflect your actual conduct, it can be advantageous to plead to a speed contest rather than to face charges for DUI.
Like the common DUI (DUI without causing injury), a violation of Vehicle Code 23109 is a misdemeanor. But compared to a California DUI, a speed contest results in:
- lower fines,
- a shorter jail sentence,
- a shorter period of probation,
- no requirement to attend DUI alcohol classes, and
- no priorability.
3. Penalties For a California Speed Contest
Speed ex carries a maximum fine of $500. The fine for a California DUI can be up to $1,000 – more by the time county penalty assessments are added in.
County jail sentence
The maximum sentence for California exhibition of speed is 90 days in county jail. DUI carries a sentence of up to six months (or more for a second or subsequent offense).
Probation for a California speed contest lasts from one to two years. The probation period for a DUI is typically three to five years — more than twice as long.
Points on DMV driver record
Pleading guilty to a speed contest will add 2 points to your California DMV driving record. If you accumulate enough points, the DMV will declare you a negligent operator and suspend your license. If you are convicted of a DUI, however, the court can suspend your license right away — for a period ranging from 90 days to six months.
4. No “Priorability” for a California Exhibition of Speed
Speed contest plea bargains do not count as DUI “priors.” A DUI (or even a “wet reckless”), on the other hand, is a priorable offense. If you are convicted of DUI, and are later arrested for another DUI within ten years, you will face substantially higher penalties for the subsequent DUI.
A speed ex, however, is not a priorable offense for purposes of calculating DUI penalties. If you accept a speed contest plea bargain, it will not count as a prior DUI offense if you are later arrested for another DUI.
Just as importantly, if you already have a prior DUI offense, a “speed contest” does not trigger the increased penalties you would face for conviction on another DUI.
Our DUI lawyers work to provide clients with the best possible options for resolving a DUI charge. This includes negotiating with the prosecution to demonstrate the weaknesses of their case while highlighting the strengths of ours.
If you or someone you know has been charged with DUI in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County or Ventura, contact us for a free consultation.