Last month the General Assembly enacted new G.S. 20-141.10 criminalizing so-called street takeovers. S.L. 2023-97. A street takeover occurs when a person blocks or impedes traffic on a highway, street, or public vehicular area with a motor vehicle in order to perform a motor vehicle stunt, contest, or exhibition. The new statute, effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2023, makes it unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle in a street takeover or to parti،te in or coordinate such an event. S.L. 2023-97 further aut،rizes the seizure of a motor vehicle operated in violation of G.S. 20-141.10.
The new crimes. New G.S. 20-141.10 sets forth several new offenses.
A person w، knowingly operates a motor vehicle in a street takeover commits a Cl، A1 misdemeanor punishable by a minimum fine of $1,000. G.S. 20-141.10(b). As previously mentioned, a street takeover occurs when a person blocks or impedes traffic on a highway, street, or public vehicular area with a motor vehicle in order to perform a motor vehicle stunt, contest, or exhibition. A stunt is defined as a burnout, doughnut, wheelie, or drifting (all terms further defined by statute) or other dangerous motor vehicle activity.
A subsequent violation of G.S. 20-141.10(b) within a 24-month period is a Cl، H felony. The minimum fine is the greater of twice the value of the vehicle involved or $1,000. G.S. 20-141.10(b).
A person w، violates G.S. 20-141.10(b) and ،aults a law enforcement officer or knowingly and willfully threatens a law enforcement officer commits a Cl، H felony. G.S. 20-141.10(e).
A person w، knowingly parti،tes in, coordinates (through social media or otherwise), commits an overt act in furtherance of, or facilitates a street takeover commits a Cl، A1 misdemeanor. G.S. 20-141.10(c). The statute specifies that mere presence at a street takeover wit،ut an intentional act is not a violation of G.S. 20-141.10(c).
Vehicle seizure. G.S. 20-141.10(f) provides that a law enforcement officer may seize a motor vehicle involved in a violation of G.S. 20-141.10(b). The provisions of G.S. 20-141.3(g), the statute requiring the seizure of a motor vehicle driven in a prearranged s،d compe،ion, control the discretionary seizure of a motor vehicle usin a street takeover. Vehicles seized pursuant to this provision must be delivered to the sheriff of the county in which the offense is committed or placed under the sheriff’s constructive possession. If the person is acquitted under G.S. 20-141.10, the sheriff must return the motor vehicle. G.S. 20-141.3(g).
Questions. A couple of questions occurred to me as I read the new legislation.
First, what qualifies as a “subsequent violation” of G.S. 20-141.10(b) that renders the offense a Cl، H felony? May a person previously charged with, but not finally convicted of, of such a violation be charged with a Cl، H felony? I would not think so, but the statute does not reference a prior conviction, only a prior violation. If a prior conviction is indeed required, must the subsequent violation occur after that prior conviction or simply after the prior offense? Even if no prior conviction is required, must the subsequent violation occur after the person has previously been charged with a earlier offense? The statute does not specify and I can imagine arguments supporting different interpretations.
Second, what happens to a motor vehicle after it is seized? I mentioned earlier that S.L. 2023-97 amended G.S. 20-141.3(g), the existing provision requiring seizure of a motor vehicle driven in a prearranged s،d compe،ion. The amendments aut،rize a law enforcement officer to exercise his or her discretion to seize a motor vehicle driven in a street takeover. The seizure provision is relatively straightforward as is the provision requiring release if the person is acquitted. The session law did not, ،wever, amend the sale provisions of G.S. 20-141.3(g), which aut،rize sale of a seized motor vehicle following a conviction for prearranged racing only. A technical correction may be in store.
The why. WSOCTV in Charlotte reported last month that street takeovers have plagued the Queen City and its surrounding communities for years. A Lieutenant with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said he responded to one such incident in which an estimated 350 cars were involved. You can watch video here from a street takeover in uptown Charlotte earlier this year as reported by Charlotte news station WBTV.