Illegal Street Racing in Germany

German Criminal Lawyers

Illegal Street Racing in Germany

German Criminal Lawyers

In recent years, illegal street racing in Germany has become a significant legal issue, particularly in major cities such as Cologne and Berlin.

Even in cases where nobody has been harmed and those that take place away from crowded urban areas, there can be significant criminal sanctions for the offence. Those found guilty of such crimes can face prison sentences, fines and having their driving licence and vehicle confiscated.

Working with an experienced criminal defence lawyer is essential to protect yourself against the damaging consequences of such an accusation.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our criminal defence lawyers are ready to support you with comprehensive legal services. Our lawyers will be there every step of the way by utilising our extensive experience in German criminal law and procedure. We are ready to advise, create the defence strategy and represent you before the courtroom.

If you require legal support, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team using our contact details below.

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Legal Offences and Sanctions for Illegal Street Racing under German law

Due to increased reporting of and public concern about illegal street racing in Germany, stricter laws have been implemented to combat it in different forms. This development has seen actions relating to illegal street racing be classified as criminal law rather than administrative offences. § 315d StGB (German Criminal Code) demonstrates how criminal law provisions exist for various violations connected to street racing.

These offences include:

  1. Participating in and organising an illegal street race,
  2. Endangering the life or serious injury of another person (intentionally or negligently),
  3. Endangering the property of significant value belonging to another person,
  4. Causing another person’s death or severe damage to another person’s health,
  5. Causing damage to the health of a large number of people.

Those found guilty of these offences will face sanctions consisting of prison sentences or significant fines and the prospect of losing their driving licence. The prison sentence linked to the crime will depend on the nature of the offence, with offence (4) above carrying a prison sentence of up to 10 years. The prison sentences for other crimes can range from two to five years based on the facts of the case.

For first-time offenders participating in illegal street races, fines and a driving licence revocation of 9 to 12 months are not unusual.

However, other factors, such as the length of the driving distance, other traffic violations (including running red lights or overtaking on the right) and the speed involved, have crucial roles to play.

Driving bans, temporary (or in some cases permanent) withdrawal of driving licences and confiscation of the vehicles involved can also be implemented as sanctions. A vehicle can be seized even if it is not the vehicle of the person accused of illegal street racing.

The Definition of Illegal Street Racing under German law

§ 315d StGB provides the following as a definition for what is considered a race:

“Whoever, in road traffic,

  • organises or conducts an unauthorised motor vehicle race,
  • participates as a motor vehicle driver in an unauthorised motor vehicle race or
  • moves with inappropriate speed as the driver of a motor vehicle and in gross violation of road traffic regulations and carelessly in order to achieve maximum speed.”

The offence covers our classical view of a race whereby two or more participants aim to reach a defined point in the shortest time. Racing with multiple cars is viewed as:

  • One drives a long distance against another driver; or
  • A “sprint race” whereby the drivers race each other over a short distance, for example, from traffic light to traffic light.

Such a race does not need to be “officially” organised between the parties in advance, and they do not need to start at the same time or from the same point. Organising such an event may involve bringing the participants to the area (marshalling), timekeeping, providing starting signal and marking the finish line.

However, it is also possible for drivers to be found liable for illegal street racing in the event of “solo racing”. According to the law, Solo racers are those drivers who drive at an inappropriate speed, in gross violation of traffic regulations, and recklessly to reach the highest possible speed.

German law does not define the specific speeds involved with the offence. However, inappropriate speed is generally held to be a speed that does not correspond to the road conditions, visibility and weather conditions. Of course, breaking the speed limit is a good indicator, but it may not be enough if the vehicle is still safely controlled. This view indicates that individual factors based on the driver’s abilities are considered essential.

From an objective perspective, the driver must have driven in a manner considered to be in gross violation of traffic rules. The following offences can show breaching traffic regulations: driving significantly over the speed limit, overtaking other vehicles by passing on the right, running a red traffic light approaching a pedestrian crossing too quickly and overtaking on a blind bend.

From a subjective view, the driver must have acted recklessly or negligently, disregarding their responsibilities towards other road users. However, as one of the legal requirements is the intention “to achieve maximum speed”, this makes it difficult for accusers to prove in practice. There is some confusion concerning the definition of “maximum speed” as to whether it is based on the vehicle present and its specific limits or the weather conditions etc., present in that particular situation.

Evidence used in Illegal Street Racing Cases

Often the accusation of an illegal street race is from police officer reports, other road users or pedestrians witnessing the event. The street itself can also be examined, and the tyre marks evaluated. However, even races on deserted roads without footpaths can be considered “abstract endangerment offences”.

There are also technical methods by which an illegal street race can be determined. Such methods include:

  • Dash cams in emergency vehicles,
  • Video surveillance at or in houses at the scene of the crime,
  • Video surveillance at intersections on the race track,
  • Messages between the accused showing there was an agreement to race,
  • The dash cam in the offender’s vehicle.

Only through working with an experienced German criminal defence lawyer can the evidence properly be evaluated and determined whether it is sufficient for the crime in question.

Our lawyers will examine the credibility of witness statements, determine whether they could have made accurate accounts of what happened and evaluate whether their speed estimate is sufficient for the standards needed.

For more technical evidence, our team will determine whether the video recordings have the quality required to provide reliable information from which solid conclusions can be drawn.

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