April 27, 2010

J.C. France's Drive Through Penalty

Seriously, you can race on public streets high on cocaine, get all charges dismissed on a ludicrous technicality and get full reinstatement in the Grand -Am racing? Seriously?

NASCAR owns Grand-Am of course. No word if the Florida cops kindly returned his stash as well as drop all charges....

From the Daytona Beach News Journal:

All charges dropped for driver France

DAYTONA BEACH -- J.C. France, grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., will be behind the wheel of a race car soon, now that a technicality has wiped out the charges lodged against him in an October arrest.

On Thursday, France was reinstated to Grand-Am Road Racing to compete in Rolex Series events after a five-month suspension following his arrest last year by Daytona Beach police.

Grand-Am spokesman Kevin Hinson confirmed that the 44-year-old France was issued a competitor's license earlier this week after a circuit judge granted a motion to suppress all the evidence collected against the race car driver when he was stopped in Holly Hill.

Therein lies the technicality.

France was stopped in Holly Hill by a Daytona Beach cop.

The officer, Charles Fields, initially heard a BOLO (be on the lookout) on the police radio by Daytona Beach Capt. Steve Szabo. The BOLO concerned two cars racing westbound over the Seabreeze Bridge. Police said France, in a 2007 Lamborghini, was racing against his half-brother Russell Van Richmond, who was driving a Porsche Cayenne.

Fields, who was northbound on Ridgewood Avenue, said when he saw France, the latter was running a stoplight at Ridgewood and Mason avenues. Fields said France then headed north on Ridgewood. Richmond had gone in the opposite direction into Daytona Beach and was stopped a few minutes later by a policewoman.

But France's stop was unlawful, said his attorney Mike Lambert, because Fields was outside of his jurisdiction when France was pulled over at the 200 block of Ridgewood Avenue.

According to Fields' report, France smelled of alcohol. The officer also found a baggie with cocaine inside the pricey ride, the report shows. As a result, France was charged with possession of cocaine and DUI and hauled off to the Volusia County Branch Jail.

But the charges evaporated like a cloud of engine exhaust off a racetrack.

Circuit Judge Patrick Kennedy agreed with Lambert, saying that when Fields observed France run a red light at Ridgewood and Mason Avenues, France was already in Holly Hill.

Holly Hill begins at Beach Street and Mason Avenue in the westbound direction off the Seabreeze Bridge. A city engineer confirmed that at a suppression hearing March 22.

"As a general principle, police officers of a municipality have no official power to arrest an offender outside the boundaries of their municipality," Kennedy said in his order. "Obviously, there are exceptions to that general principle; however, none were offered or could be applied to this case."

If Fields had seen France run the red light in Daytona Beach, he could have stopped him in Holly Hill, prosecutor and State Attorney's Office spokesman Chris Kelly said.

Szabo could have stopped him in Holly Hill as well, because the captain initially said he saw France and Richmond racing over the Seabreeze Bridge -- street racing is against state law -- and the bridge is in Daytona Beach.

Kelly further explained that if Fields had observed France commit a felony in Holly Hill, he could have arrested him with a citizen's arrest.

"This is so technical, it's borderline ridiculous," Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood said. "Who knew that little stretch of Mason from Beach Street to Ridgewood is Holly Hill?"

While Chitwood and his officers learned geography that day, the chief said he hopes France learned something also.

France underwent rehabilitation and drug testing required by Grand-Am, headquartered in Daytona Beach and owned by NASCAR.

"He addressed the legal issues that were outstanding. Based on the fact those issues were resolved, and successfully completing the program administered by Dr. David Black, we made a decision to reinstate him," Hinson said. Black is a forensic toxicologist.

Meanwhile, France won't compete in this weekend's Rolex Series at Virginia International Raceway. He's not expected to attend Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250.

"Being out of the car was tough,'' France said Wednesday. "Sometimes it takes losing something to understand its importance. I was getting a little ragged and needed a good kick in the butt; I got it."

Chitwood thinks France was lucky nonetheless.

"Some people lead a charmed life, that's all I can say," the chief said.

-- Correspondent D.C. Williams Jr. contributed to this report.

1 comment:

  1. Anyone else have a little 'lol' at them punching each other's helmets in that fight? Might take a while to K.O. with those on, probably going for a points victory...


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