Exhibition of Speed

Ever since the automobile first made its way onto American roadways, cities and states have limited how fast cars could legally travel. Though speed limits are an ever present limitation whenever you drive, many people are not aware that you can also violate traffic laws by engaging in exhibitions of speed.

"Exhibitions of speed" is a phrase that encompasses several types of activity, all of which are regarded as dangerous. Though states categorize speed exhibitions differently, exhibition of speed laws typically criminalize drag races, street races, "peel outs," skidding, sliding, "drifting," and other types of similar activity. Some states categorize the crime as "racing," or by other terms, but all states have laws that prohibit exhibitions of speed.

  • Racing. An exhibition of speed violation is often charged when drivers engage in racing, drag racing, or any other form of speed or driving contest. Any driver participating in a race can be convicted of exhibition of speed even if there is no one else on the road other than the racers. It is not necessary for a prosecutor to show that anyone was in danger during the race, as the race or the exhibition of speed itself is what is prohibited under the law.
  • Showing-off. Exhibition of speed charges sometimes require that a prosecutor show the driver engaged in the unsafe activity in order to impress someone else. However, that someone else can be a complete stranger, and it is not necessary for the prosecutor to show the driver had any specific person in mind. In some states, however, there is no requirement that the exhibition of speed is done to impress someone else, and you can be convicted of the crime if no one else is around.
  • Speed limits. Unlike speeding tickets, an exhibition of speed charge doesn't require that you travel above a certain speed. All a prosecutor has to show is that you accelerated unusually quickly, "peeled out," raced, or engaged in prohibited or dangerous activity. Even if you never exceeded the speed limit, you can still be convicted of an exhibition of speed.
  • Intentional. You cannot be convicted of exhibition of speed if you didn't intend to drive your car in the illegal manner. For example, if you are a new driver or have recently rented a car that has a lot more power than you are used to and you accidentally accelerate too quickly, you are not guilty of an exhibition of speed. The prosecution must show that you intended to unreasonably accelerate or engage in prohibited activity.


Being convicted for an exhibition of speed crime can lead to some fairly significant consequences. While some states charge exhibitions of speed as traffic infraction, others punish them as a misdemeanors, a more serious type of offense. While state laws differ significantly, exhibition of speed convictions typically bring with them one or more of the following penalties.

  • Fines. Many, if not most, convictions for exhibitionist speed are punished with a fine. The amount of the fine depends upon the state or municipality in which the crime was charged, but convictions can bring a fine ranging from anywhere between $50 to $500 or more.
  • Probation. A court may also sentence someone convicted of exhibition of speed to a probation term, usually one that lasts 6 months or longer. A person on probation must comply with specific court conditions, such as regularly meeting with a probation officer and maintaining a clean driving record. If someone on probation violates any of the probation terms, the court will often revoke probation and impose a jail sentence.
  • Jail. State laws also allow courts to impose a jail sentence in exhibition of speed cases. The likelihood of a jail sentence often depends upon the circumstances of the case and the driver's history. Most states allow for a jail sentence of up to 30 or 60 days, though up to 90 days or longer is possible in some states.
  • Suspended license. An exhibition of speed conviction can also result in the loss of driving privileges. People convicted of exhibition of speed often have their licenses suspended for up to 6 months or longer. In many states, first time exhibition of speed offenders do not have their licenses suspended unless the driver's actions were particularly dangerous.

Talk to a Lawyer for Legal Advice

Exhibition of speed charges can be serious, and you shouldn't view them as just another traffic ticket. Even if you have never been convicted of a crime before, the possibility that you might lose your license, pay a hefty fine, or spend time in jail means that you should seek out the advice of a local criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. Collateral consequences also may involve difficulty getting insurance. Only an attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and give you legal advice based on your individual situation.

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