If you live in the Bay area, then you know what a ‘sideshow’ is; it’s an informal gathering of vehicle enthusiasts that includes drivers performing tricks like doing ‘doughnuts’ and participating in ‘ghost riding’ (in which the driver allows the car to remain in motion while climbing onto the roof or other parts of the vehicle). Originating in Oakland, sideshows have been around since before the 1990s, when they gained more popularity, especially with the urban youth.
Law enforcement officials have long attempted to curb sideshow activity as they consider these exhibitions to be a danger to public safety. In the past, pedestrians and bicyclists have been involved in fatal crashes and shootings have become a normal occurrence wherever there is sideshow activity. Recently, in fact, a 26-year-old man (name withheld to protect the accused’s anonymity) was arrested after police spotted a sideshow in Oakland (International Boulevard and 54th).
They attempted to detain those participating, but the aforementioned young man took off, leading California Highway Patrol officers on a chase that ended when the car spun out near the Interstate (I-880). The individual in question was placed under arrest on charges of resisting arrest (CA Penal Code 148(a)(1)) and felony evading police, among other things. Another 19-year-old man was arrested on charges relating to speed contests, which are, of course, illegal.
California Vehicle Code 23109(a) makes participating in a speed contest illegal in the state. According to this law, in order to be convicted of such an offense, it is necessary that prosecutors be able to prove that the contest took place on some kind of highway or public road and that the speed contest was purposeful. Additionally, if you are a participant in a sideshow, you could be charged with exhibition of speed (CA Vehicle Code 23109) or with reckless driving (CA Vehicle Code 23103). In any case, it is unlikely that the penalties will be harsh if you are convicted of such a crime. Usually, they are treated as misdemeanors, though state legislators have been trying to change that for the last decade or so with new laws that would require those convicted of a violation of these laws to have their vehicles seized.