ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia lawmakers are enacting heavier penalties on street racing, saying they’re reacting to an outbreak of drag racing and stunt driving during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when traffic thinned on roads.
The Senate voted 46-3 on Monday to give final approval to House Bill 534, which would require at least 10 days of jail time for all convictions and would call for someone convicted a third time within five years to forfeit their vehicle.
The measure goes to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature. The Republican governor is among those who has called for a crackdown.
The measure creates a new crime of reckless stunt driving when someone is drag racing or laying drags “in reckless disregard for the safety of persons on a highway” or on private property without the owner’s permission. Laying drags is a current Georgia crime that is applicable when people are not racing on public roadways but driving in donuts or showing off, possibly on private property.
When someone is convicted for the first time in 10 years, they would be fined $300 to $750 and imprisoned for 10 days to six months. A second conviction within 10 years would bring a fine of $600 to $1,000 and 90 days to a year in jail. A third conviction in that span would bring a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and 120 days to 12 months in jail.
Fourth and later convictions would be felonies with fines of $1,000 to $5,000 and one to five years in prison. After a felony conviction, the offender would have to forfeit their vehicle unless a judge found the car was the only family vehicle and would cause a hardship to other relatives.
The driver’s licenses of those convicted of stunt driving would be suspended. A first offense within five years would bring a suspension of 12 months, with someone allowed to appeal for a reinstatement after 120 days. A second conviction within five years would bring a suspension of three years, with someone allowed to seek reinstatement after 18 months. After a third offense, someone could appeal for a probationary license, which might restrict when and where someone was allowed to drive, after two years.
The measure also creates a new misdemeanor of organizing or promoting illegal drag racing or laying drags.
Some of the penalties were reduced during the legislative process, and a proposal that would have allowed spectators to be arrested for “knowingly” attending a drag race was removed.
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