Harsher penalties for deadly stunt driving, street takeovers on road to Gov. DeSantis’ desk

‘The problem is that life does not allow a do-over with a simple push of a button.’

A bill that will help police crack down on dangerous driving and perilous street takeovers is en route to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk after exiting the Legislature with broad support.

If signed or allowed to become law without further action, the measure (SB 1764) will add to strictures lawmakers approved in 2022 enabling cops to hand out fines and make arrests based on video evidence of stunt driving and drag racing.

Notably, it will hike fines for coordinating or participating in those events and street takeovers to up to $2,000 for a first offense and a one-year license suspension. Subsequent offenses would carry much harsher penalties.

“This is a great bill. It’s not often that we have the opportunity to pass bills that will actually save lives. And when we do, it’s a blessing,” said Jacksonville Republican Rep. Kiyan Michael, one of the measure’s sponsors, before House members voted 106-2 for its passage Wednesday .

Under the bill, which the Senate unanimously approved March 1, it will be a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, for anyone involved in a street takeover to knowingly impede or interfere with the movement of an emergency vehicle. A second offense would be a second-degree felony, which carries an up to 15-year prison sentence.

People found guilty of coordinating or participating in stunt driving, drag racing or street takeover events would also face a third-degree felony and a two-year driver’s license suspension for a second offense within a year of the first.

Those who don’t learn their lesson the first two times would face a second-degree felony and a four-year license revocation.

People who merely watch an event in person would face a $500 fine, up from $65 now.

That last detail was a point of concern for Tampa Rep. Dianne Hart. She worried that while SB 1764 is needed to add more guardrails and stop dangerous roadway behavior, it may result in innocent passersby getting “caught up” and wrongly arrested.

“I could be riding my bike and this is happening, the police come up (and) now all of a sudden I’m caught up as somebody who’s watching what’s happening,” she said. “We’re really reacting kind of knee-jerk, and we’re going to be penalizing some folk who may not have really been a part of this street takeover.”

Hart and St. Petersburg Rep. Michele Rayner voted “no” on the bill, which Hollywood Sen. Jason Pizzo, a fellow Democrat, sponsored.

Apopka Republican Rep. Doug Bankson, the bill’s other House sponsor, blamed movies and video games for a rise in street racing and stunt driving that prompted legislative action across many state and local governments.

“The problem is that life does not allow a do-over with a simple push of a button,” he said. “These events are killing kids and endangering bystanders, damaging property and creating public nuisance … and it’s time to act.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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