Our Services as German Criminal Defence Lawyers
By working with an expert in German criminal defence, those accused of illegal street racing give themselves the best chance of achieving a favourable result. The law in this area can be vague in places, and an experienced professional will know exactly where to press their claims. The best advice we can give is to contact our team from the beginning as our lawyers will advise you regarding the police summons and what to do at the investigation stage. If our team is engaged early, they can also dedicate the required time and resources to formulating the defence strategy, acquiring the evidence, consulting experts and preparing the arguments.
Our lawyers will review the facts of your case, prepare you for the courtroom and will establish whether the matter can be resolved away from there, and advise you regarding what to expect under the German criminal law system. Our lawyers will remain open and transparent with you throughout the process, ensuring that you are aware of what can be achieved in your situation.
Legal Offences and Sanctions for Illegal Street Racing under German law
Due to an increase in the reporting of and public concern about illegal street racing in Germany, stricter laws have been implemented to combat it in its different forms. This development has seen actions relating to illegal street racing to be classified as criminal law rather than administrative offences. § 315d StGB (German Criminal Code) demonstrates how there are now criminal law provisions for various violations connected to street racing. These offences include:
- Participating in and organising an illegal street race,
- Endangering the life or serious injury of another person (intentionally or negligently),
- Endangering the property of significant value belonging to another person,
- Causing another person’s death or severe damage to another person’s health,
- 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 the other crimes can range from two to five years based on the facts of the case. First-time offenders participating in an illegal street race 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.”
Our classical view of a race whereby two or more participants aim to reach a defined point in the shortest time is covered by the offence. 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 steps, such as 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 considered a good indicator but 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 important.
From an objective perspective, the driver must have driven in a manner considered to be in gross violation of traffic rules. Breaching traffic regulations can be shown by the following offences: driving in significant excess of 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 on 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 where there are no footpaths can be held as “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.
It is only through working with an experienced criminal defence lawyer that the evidence can 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.