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Birmingham City Council to Anyone Showing Up to Watch Exhibition Driving: Don’t

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The Birmingham City Council wants to deter exhibition driving for not only individuals who participate, but even those who show up to watch. (Provided)

The Birmingham Times

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday put teeth into the City Code to deter exhibition driving for not only individuals who participate, but even those who show up to watch.

According to amendments to the code, spectators in exhibition driving or street racing is punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or 180 days in jail.

“One thing that we’ve seen is there are a lot of people that participate in this who aren’t the necessarily the ones driving,” said Councilor LaTonya Tate, chair of the Public Safety Committee. “What we wanted to do is put something into law that dissuades people from even showing up for these dangerous events, even if they’re just planning on being passive participants – like people live streaming and taking videos.”

“With these changes, we are giving our law enforcement officers a much-needed tool in order to curb this behavior on our public streets,” Councilor Hunter Williams said. “Enforcement of these changes will be up to the discretion of our officers. The Mayor’s Operation Knight Rider has been a huge success so far. This will allow for additional enforcement beyond just drivers and will hopefully prevent large crowds from gathering at these events.”

Through May 12, Operation Knight Rider has led to 34 arrests, with three of the cases presented to the Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.

The total arrests under the initiative since April 12 include 45 felony charges, 32 misdemeanor charges, 10 exhibition driving-related charges and nine charges of fleeing or attempting to elude police, police said earlier this month.

Officers have recovered nine stolen vehicles and impounded a total of 25 vehicles.

Additionally, police said, the operation has resulted in the seizure of 22 weapons – one rifle and 22 handguns, three of which were equipped with machine-gun conversion devices (“switches”).

During the operation, police have recovered 4.1 pounds of marijuana, 39 grams of cocaine, 228 grams of methamphetamine. They have also seized $11,723 in cash which Sgt. LaQuitta Wade said is suspected drug proceeds.

This past legislative session, the Alabama Legislature approved changes (HB 474) that will allow for video/livestreams/photos etc. to be utilized in the investigation and prosecution of individuals who are taking part in exhibition driving.

Prior to the changes, Birmingham Police Officers would have to witness the act in person to be able to make an arrest. According to the legislation, exhibition driving that causes serious injury would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison; incidents resulting in death would be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Vehicles are also eligible to seizure and impoundment if they are involved in exhibition driving.