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Engage in Speed Contest Law & Defense

California Vehicle Code 23109

The law on the crime of engaging in a speed contest is found at California vehicle code section 23109. There are several varieties of criminal speed contest charges that fall under VC 23109. This article is dedicated to an explanation of the law, the defense, and the punishments, for the most common speed contest violation, which is found at VC 23109(a).

The Law of VC 23109(a):

To prove the defendant engaged in a speed contest the district attorney must prove all three of the following:

  • The defendant drove a motor vehicle on a highway
  • While driving, the defendant willfully engaged in a speed contest

A motor vehicle, according to VC 23109, can include a commercial truck, a car, a bus, a motorcycle, a tractor, or just about any other type of device used to carry people on the highways.

The term highway describes any area publicly maintained and open to the public for purposes of vehicular travel, including streets, roads, dirt roads, and parking lots.

The term willfully simply means that the defendant did the act on purpose.

A person engages in a speed contest when he or she uses a motor vehicle to race against another vehicle, a clock, or other timing device.

Note: A speed contest does not include an event in which the drivers measure the time required to cover a set route of more than twenty miles but where the vehicle does not exceed the speed limits.

When the defendant engages in a speed contest which leads to injury the defendant may face more serious consequences but the same underlying criminal charge applies (VC 23109(a)). In some cases the injury may be severe or serious. In cases of severe or serious bodily injury associated with speed contest the district attorney may apply a serious bodily injury enhancement (PC 12022.7).

A serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition. Examples include broken bones, organ damage other than the skin, wound requiring extensive suturing, disfigurement, and more.

Punishment for speed contest convictions (VC 23109(a))

Whether the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, or is found guilty after a jury trial or court trail, the defendant may face the following punishments:

VC 23109(a) without injury is misdemeanor. If found guilty, the defendant may face up to 90 days in the county jail.

VC 23109(a) with injury is a misdemeanor. If found guilty the defendant may face up to 180 days in the county jail.

VC 23109(a) with serious injury, or with any prior VC 23109 conviction, may be filed as a felony or as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of felony speed contest charges the defendant may face up to 3 years in prison or county jail. If found guilty of misdemeanor speed contest charges the defedant may face upt o 1 year in the county jail.

In some speed contest criminal cases it may be possible to have the charges dismissed or reduce. Whether or not a dismissal or reduction of the charges is available depends largely on the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case. 

Probation (without jail) is a possibility for many VC 23109(a) charges. Also, split sentences and suspended sentences might be available for felony speed contest charges.

VC 23109(a) is not considered a crime of moral turpitude and is also not considered a serious or violent strike under California's Three Strikes Law.

Additional Penalties for VC 23109(a) convictions

If found guilty of engaging in a speed contest the defendant may suffer penalties above and beyond any possible jail or prison committment. These penalties include: immigration consequences for immigrants, professional licensing suspension or revocation for professionals, driving license suspension or revocation, fines, probation terms, increased punishment for future violation of law, restitution (for any injury to persons or property), civil lawsuits, and more.

Defenses to engage in speed contest (VC 23109(a))

The most common defenses to any VC 23109(a) charge include: Insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was engaged in a speed contest (wasn't racing someone else, but rather speeding), emergency (also known as necessity), self-defense (racing to get away from a dangerous person), statute of limitations (one year), lack of injury, police misconduct in their investigations (also known as the suppression of evidence or coerced confessions), mistake of law as to the speed limit, and more.

If you or a loved one is charged with the crime of engaging in a speed contest or VC 23109(a), contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Dorado & Dorado today. Our criminal defense attorneys handle all VC 23109(a) charges, including expungements, warrant recalls, and violations of probation associated with VC 23109 charges. Our consultations are free our attorneys are available everyday to answer your questions. Call today!



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VC 23109: Engage in Speed Contest


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VC 23109: Engaging in a Speed Contest

  • Evading VC 2800
  • Speeding in Excess of Posted Limit VC 22356
  • Driving at an Unsafe Speed VC 22350
  • Engage in speed contest with injury VC 23109(a)
  • Barricade a highway for speed contest VC 23109(d)
  • Speed contest with prior VC 23109(f)
  • Aid or abet a speed contest on highway VC 23109(b)


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California Engaging in Speed Contest Law & Defense / VC 23109(a)

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Law Office of Christopher Dorado 1030 Nevada Street. Suite 105 Redlands, CA. 92374 

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