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The Risks of Illegal Street Takeovers in California

What Are Illegal Street Takeovers?

Street takeovers, popularly known as "sideshows", have carved out a notorious niche in the urban culture of California.

At first glance, they may appear to be spontaneous car festivals - intersections or segments of public streets overrun by crowds of spectators, the air pierced with the roar of engines, as drivers perform daring stunts, drag races, or burnouts.

Yet, beneath the veil of adrenaline and spectacle, these events are not only illegal but are also fraught with potential danger.

By definition, a street takeover involves the unauthorized commandeering of public roads for unregulated activities.

Often coordinated through social media, these events attract not just drivers eager to flaunt their automotive prowess, but also scores of spectators ready to document the spectacle, feeding the cycle. 

Despite the perceived camaraderie and thrill, these events stand in direct contravention of various local and state laws in Los Angeles and throughout California.

These laws aim to safeguard public health and order, to prevent reckless endangerment, and to ensure the orderly use of shared spaces.

Violations can carry severe penalties, from criminal charges and hefty fines to vehicle impoundment, license suspension, or even imprisonment.

More importantly, the uncontrolled environments in which these sideshows occur pose substantial risks to public safety.

Numerous instances have led to damage to public and private property, severe injuries, and tragically, even fatalities.

If you've been charged or cited with a crime related to a street takeover, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney today. 

Why Are Street Takeovers Happening?

Illegal street takeovers reflect a complex interplay between car culture, youthful rebellion, and the desire for community.

The two most common areas for street takeovers and racing to take place in southern California are the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles. 

But as these events continue to rise in frequency, so does the urgency to understand, manage, and mitigate their risks and repercussions.

What Happens if You’re Caught at a Street Takeover?

In Los Angeles, engaging in a dangerous street takeover violates various local and state laws. These include:

California Public Nuisance Laws

Public nuisance laws in California are designed to protect public health, safety, and morals, or the use and enjoyment of property.

Under California Penal Code Section 372 and 373a, anyone who maintains or commits a public nuisance, or willfully omits to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Illegal Street Racing Laws in California

Street takeovers often involve activities associated with illegal street racing. California Vehicle Code 23109(a) makes it a misdemeanor to engage in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway. This can include a race against another car, a clock, or other timing devices.

Reckless Driving Laws

Many street takeover activities fall under the category of reckless driving. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23103, a person who drives a vehicle on a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

If convicted, one can be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days or by a fine of up to $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

Laws Against Obstructing Traffic 

Blocking off roads for street takeovers is also unlawful. According to California Vehicle Code Section 22400, It is prohibited for any individual to stop a vehicle on a public road in a way that obstructs or hinders the regular and reasonable flow of traffic.

Engaging in a street takeover in Los Angeles can result in various criminal charges, fines, vehicle impoundment, driver's license suspension, and even imprisonment. Beyond legal ramifications, these activities pose significant risks to public safety, leading to property damage, injuries, and sometimes, fatalities.

Public streets are shared spaces meant for the safe movement of people and goods. Unsanctioned activities that compromise public safety and disrupt public order are generally prohibited and punishable under the law. 

Cities like Pico Rivera are taking an aggressive stance to curtail street takeovers by implementing a new ordinance allowing for permanent vehicle seizures for those found performing dangerous maneuvers like donuts or blocking streets.

Along with vehicle seizure, drivers and attendees may also face a $2,000 fine. 

If your vehicle has been impounded, or you have been charged with a street takeover-related crime, consult with a legal professional to understand the full extent of the potential legal consequences.

What is California Doing to Combat Street Takeovers? 

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is taking substantial steps to counteract the escalating issue of illegal street takeovers, sideshows, and street racing.

As part of its intensified efforts, the CHP has recently received a federal grant designed to address these reckless driving behaviors. 

This grant complements the $5.5 million allotted in the 2022-23 state budget for the CHP's Campaign to Eliminate Street Racing and Sideshows (C.E.S.R.S.).

The additional $1.5 million Sideshow, Takeover, Racing, Education, and Enforcement Taskforce (STREET) grant aims to reduce the number of fatal and injury-causing traffic incidents linked to such activities.

Statistics for 2019-2020 indicate that speed contributed to around 40 percent of all fatal and injury crashes in California. Preliminary data for 2020-2021 show a worrying 21 percent increase in deaths from accidents caused by reckless driving.

The STREET grant will fund a targeted campaign combining education and law enforcement to tackle aggressive driving, street racing, and sideshow activities.

As part of their initiatives, the CHP has collaborated with other law enforcement agencies to create task forces addressing street racing and sideshow incidents and launched social media campaigns to highlight the dangers of high-speed, aggressive driving behaviors.

An additional legislative deterrent, Assembly Bill 2000, was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, making it illegal to participate in a motor vehicle speed contest or in an exhibition of speed in an off-street parking facility, effective from January 1, 2023.

The CHP is determined to ensure the safety, service, and security of California's roadways. It views the STREET grant and other initiatives as critical components in mitigating the dangers associated with street takeovers and sideshows.

What are some Legal Defenses Against Street Racing Charges?

It's important to remember that every case is unique, and the success of any defense strategy will depend on the specific circumstances surrounding the alleged crime.

Nonetheless, some possible defenses against street racing charges could include:

  1. Lack of Evidence. This is a common defense in many criminal cases. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was engaged in a speed contest or exhibition of speed. If the evidence is insufficient or unreliable, this could be a strong defense.
  2. Mistaken Identity. This defense can be used if the defendant can establish that they were not the one involved in the street racing. This could be a case of a mistaken license plate, vehicle, or physical description.
  3. Emergency Situation. In some cases, it may be possible to argue that the defendant was responding to an emergency situation that required them to drive in a manner that appeared to be racing.
  4. Duress or Necessity. If the defendant can prove that they were forced into racing (due to threats or intimidation), or they had to race to prevent a greater harm from occurring, they may use the defense of duress or necessity.
  5. Incorrect Speed Measurement. In cases where speed detection devices (like radar or laser guns) are used to determine the speed of the vehicle, a defense could be mounted around the incorrect usage, non-calibration, or malfunctioning of these devices.

These are general defenses and might not apply to all situations. It's crucial for anyone facing street racing charges to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can examine the specifics of the case and provide appropriate legal counsel.

Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Facing charges related to illegal street takeovers can be a daunting and stressful experience. If you or a loved one find yourselves in this situation, it's crucial to promptly seek professional legal counsel.

In Los Angeles, Attorney William Kroger has built a solid reputation defending clients in cases involving street racing, sideshows, and street takeovers. 

Attorney Kroger's legal skill is grounded in his deep understanding of California's traffic laws and his extensive experience in navigating the state's criminal justice system.

Mr. Kroger is committed to providing rigorous defense strategies tailored to the unique circumstances of your case.

His goal is to ensure your rights are safeguarded and to negotiate the most favorable outcome possible, whether that's a reduction or dismissal of charges or an acquittal at trial.

Remember, early legal intervention can often make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Do not hesitate to reach out to Attorney William Kroger at 323-655-5700.

If you're facing charges related to illegal street racing or takeovers, get the experienced legal representation you need. Contact our office today for a confidential consultation.

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