How does the street racing law in Texas work?

Tex. Trans. Code § 545.420 makes racing on the highway in Texas a crime. Of major interest, this law bans drivers from:

  1. racing;
  2. getting into a vehicle speed competition or contest;
  3. drag racing;
  4. engaging in a test of the car driver’s physical endurance; and
  5. getting into an exhibition of vehicle speed or acceleration or making a vehicle speed record while drag racing.

In other words, § 545.420 covers all types of street racing in Texas.

But to see how the racing on a highway law really works, we need to review the definitions for drag racing and racing. These definitions will explain how judges and juries decide if a person is guilty of street racing.

What is “drag racing” in Texas?

Under Tex. Trans. Code. § 545.420(b)(1), a “drag race” means:

  1. two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other; or
  2. one or more vehicles over a common selected course, from the same place to the same place, for the purpose of comparing the relative speeds or power of acceleration of the vehicle or vehicles in a specified distance or time.

What is street “racing” in Texas?

According to Tex. Trans. Code. § 545.420(b)(2), a street “race” means the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to:

  1. outgain our outdistance another vehicle or prevent another vehicle from passing;
  2. arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles; or
  3. test the physical stamina or endurance of an operator over a long-distance driving route.

What are examples of street racing in Texas?

Examples of racing on the highway in Texas include:

  • two or more cars competing to see who can drive a 1/4 mile faster;
  • a driver spinning his tires during a drag race;
  • two or more cars competing to get to a final destination by swerving in and out of traffic; and
  • one or more drivers following the same GPS route to see who can drive it faster.

Is racing on a highway a felony in Texas?

Racing on the highway in Texas is a felony if:

  1. the driver gets a third conviction for this crime;
  2. someone is hurt during the crime; or
  3. someone is killed during the crime.

However, for first-time offenders, racing on the highway is a Class B misdemeanor. It carries between 0-6 months in jail and a fine range between $0.00 and $2,000.00. Finally, most first-time offenders can get probation.

What are the penalties for street racing in Texas?

Tex. Trans. CodeTypeDescriptionJail TimeFine Amount
§ 545.420(d)Class B Misdemeanor.First-Time Offenders.0-180 days in county jail.$0 to $2,000.
§ 545.420(e) (1-2)Class A Misdemeanor.If the driver has one prior conviction for racing on the highway.

or if,

1. the driver was DWI at the time of the offense; or
2. the driver had an open container.
0-1 year in county jail.$0 to $4,000.
§ 545.420(f)State-Jail Felony.The driver has two prior convictions for racing on the highway.180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility.$0 to $10,000.
§ 545.420(g)Third-Degree Felony.If someone suffers "bodily injury" during the crime.2-10 years in prison.$0 to $10,000.
§ 545.420(h)Second-Degree Felony.If someone suffered "serious bodily injury" or death.2-20 years in prison.$0 to $10,000.

Tex. Trans. Code § 545.420 Penalties.

The table above lists the penalties for racing on highway in Texas. Notably, the penalties for racing on the highway will increase for two reasons.

First, the penalties will go up if the driver was convicted of doing this before. Second, the penalties will go up if any person was hurt or killed during the street race.

However, if the driver is a first-time offender and no one is hurt or killed, then this crime will be a Class B misdemeanor. The driver in this type of case is also eligible for probation.

Will DPS suspend my driver’s license if I am convicted of street racing in Texas?

Yes. Tex. Trans. Code § 521.350 requires DPS to automatically suspend your driver’s license for one year if you are convicted of racing on a highway in Texas. On top of that, you must complete at least 10 hours of community service before you get your license back.

Nonetheless, you can petition the court for an occupational license so you can drive while your license is suspended.

San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Genaro R. Cortez.

Phone: 210-733-7575