Texas Transportation Code 545.420 – Racing on Highway
WHAT IS RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against racing on a highway prohibits participating in a race, a vehicle speed competition or contest, a drag race or acceleration contest, or attempting to make a speed record in connection with a drag race.
- What is a drag race? Texas Transportation Code Section 545.420 defines a “drag race” as the operation of: (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.A “race” is the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to: (1) outgain or 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 IS THE RACING ON HIGHWAY LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Transp. Code § 545.420. RACING ON HIGHWAY.
(a) A person may not participate in any manner in:
(1) a race;
(2) a vehicle speed competition or contest;
(3) a drag race or acceleration contest;
(4) a test of physical endurance of the operator of a vehicle; or
(5) in connection with a drag race, an exhibition of vehicle speed or acceleration or to make a vehicle speed record.
. . .
(d) Except as provided by Subsections (e)-(h), an offense under Subsection (a) is a Class B misdemeanor.
(e) An offense under Subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor if it is shown on the trial of the offense that:
(1) the person has previously been convicted one time of an offense under that subsection; or
(2) the person, at the time of the offense:
(A) was operating the vehicle while intoxicated; or
(B) was in possession of an open container.
(f) An offense under Subsection (a) is a state jail felony if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the person has previously been convicted two times of an offense under that subsection.
(g) An offense under Subsection (a) is a felony of the third degree if it is shown on the trial of the offense that as a result of the offense, an individual suffered bodily injury.
(h) An offense under Subsection (a) is a felony of the second degree if it is shown on the trial of the offense that as a result of the offense, an individual suffered serious bodily injury or death.
(i) This subsection applies only to a motor vehicle used in the commission of an offense under this section that results in an accident with property damage or personal injury. A peace officer shall require the vehicle to be taken to the nearest licensed vehicle storage facility unless the vehicle is seized as evidence, in which case the vehicle may be taken to a storage facility as designated by the peace officer involved. Notwithstanding Article 18.23, Code of Criminal Procedure, the owner of a motor vehicle that is removed or stored under this subsection is liable for all removal and storage fees incurred and is not entitled to take possession of the vehicle until those fees are paid.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS?
The penalty classification for racing on a highway depends on a person’s prior convictions, and the damage caused by the racing, if any.
- Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, if:
- the person has no previous convictions, and no one suffered injuries;
- Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if the person:
- has been previously convicted once of racing; or
- was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated; or
- had an open container of alcohol in the vehicle;
- State jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in a state jail facility, if:
- a person has been previously convicted two or more times of racing;
- Third degree felony, punishable by two to ten years in prison, if:
- another suffered bodily injury as a result of the racing;
- Second degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison, if:
- another suffered serious bodily injury or death as a result.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for racing on a highway corresponds to the penalty classification, which depends on the damage caused, and whether the person has previous convictions.
- Second degree felony:
- two to 20 years in prison, maximum $10,000 fine;
- Third degree felony:
- two to ten years in prison, maximum $10,000 fine;
- State jail felony:
- 180 days to two years in a state jail facility, maximum $10,000 fine;
- Class A misdemeanor:
- up to one year in jail, maximum $4,000 fine;
- Class B misdemeanor:
- up to 180 days in jail, maximum $2,000 fine.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS?
A person charged with racing on a highway may be eligible for probation after a conviction, or deferred adjudication without a conviction. The community supervision term for racing charged as a misdemeanor is up to two years.
The community supervision period for a state jail felony ranges between two and five years, with the possibility of extending supervision for up to to ten years. Racing on a highway charged as a second degree or third degree felony carries a community supervision range not to exceed ten years.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS?
The statute does not authorize specific defenses to racing on a highway. A person accused thereof may attempt to negate at least one of the elements the State must prove at trial.
- What is the necessity defense in Texas? Texas Penal Code Section 9.22 authorizes a person to commit otherwise criminal conduct if it was immediately necessary to avoid imminent harm, and the urgency of avoiding the harm clearly outweighed the harm sought to be prevented by the criminal conduct. The necessity defense is available for a racing charge, and will be a heavily fact-specific inquiry for a jury.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for racing on a highway classified as a misdemeanor is two years. If categorized as a felony, the limitation period is three years.
RACING ON HIGHWAY IN TEXAS
Texas law punishes racing on a highway, which ranges from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the resulting harm from the act of racing.
TEXAS RACING ON HIGHWAY COURT CASES
The case law regarding racing on a highway in Texas shows courts upholding the constitutionality of the statute.
- In Sanchez-Vasquez v. State, the defendant and victim agreed to race. The victim hit a pothole and his vehicle went airborne, then landed upside down in a pond where he drowned. The defendant was convicted of racing on a highway resulting in death. The appellate court affirmed, holding the statute was constitutional, and not in violation of the defendant’s right to travel.
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DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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