A Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this year aims to combat street takeovers by making it possible for officers to use footage posted on the internet as evidence in their investigations.
Lawmakers and police hope the law will make offenders think twice about taking part in the dangerous activity.
The bill, introduced by Senator Jason Pizzo, passed both chambers of Congress unanimously and took effect on October 1.
Under the new law, police can use videos posted online to track down vehicles and individuals involved in the crime, such as by identifying license plate numbers and other information.
Offenders (including spectators at the scene who upload footage) can be charged with first-degree misdemeanors and a possible fine of $500 to $1,000. Violators can also have their driver’s license revoked for up to one year.
Committing another violation within five years raises the fine to $3,000 and revocation of one’s license for two years, and so on.
Previously, online evidence — such as videos or photos posted on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook — was not admissible as evidence to warrant arrests or subpoenas.
Instead, officers had to physically be at the scene and witness the crimes taking place.
The new law changes that by making an exception for the use of evidence in misdemeanors related to reckless driving and street takeovers.
“People have public profiles that are showing racing and doughnuts and tear-outs and terrorizing a neighborhood,” Pizzo said. “It’s something people can do because there were no police officers there.”
Sergeant Steve Gaskins, a spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol, said that street racing has been going on in Tampa Bay for “years and years.”
Gaskins said the agency has used a number of tactics to prevent street takeovers, such as by waiting near a popular racing spot to catch offenders or patrolling popular racing areas.
The new law should make investigators’ jobs a lot easier and safer.
Lili Trujillo, founder of the nonprofit organization Street Racing Kills, started the nonprofit after her 16-year-old daughter was killed as a passenger in a street race.
According to Trujillo, street racing is popular in Florida and has only gotten more prevalent since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Social media also plays a significant part in the culture of street racing.
“I think social media has been a very big part of it,” Trujillo said. “If you think about the spectators that can watch them — they can put it on social media and get all these likes.”
Street takeovers have become a growing concern over the past several years, in part stemming from pandemic lockdowns and fewer people on the roads.
To combat the trend, states have passed laws making street racing and “sideshows” illegal and increasing penalties related to such offenses.
For instance, Texas passed a law in 2021 bumping illegal street racing violations from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor crime.