Street Racing Laws

Texas Street Racing Laws

Street racing in Texas is defined by law as a speed contest, competition or race. Any exhibition or contest of speed is punishable by Texas Transportation Code, Sec. 545.420.

Street racing is not uncommon with young drivers, but it is not legal and getting caught in a street race can have serious consequences.

Texas Transportation Code, Section 545.420 – Racing on Highway

Street racing laws in Texas include all forms of speed racing, drag racing or drifting, or other similar exhibitions of speed. Law excerpt below defines what constitutes as speed racing.

(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.

Section 545.420 of TX Transportation Code further clarifies drag race and race terms as follows:

(1) “Drag race” means the operation of:

(A) two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other; or

(B) 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.

(2) “Race” means the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to:

(A) outgain or outdistance another vehicle or prevent another vehicle from passing;

(B) arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles; or

(C) test the physical stamina or endurance of an operator over a long-distance driving route.

See original source:

Street racing in Texas is punishable by law only when done on highways or other public roads. Law does not prohibit it on private property.

Penalties

Back before 2003, that time when Fast & Furious still wasn’t making billions on the box office, street racing in Texas was considered a simple traffic violation. After new laws were enacted in 2003, penalties became far more serious.

  1. Participating in a street race in Texas is now considered a Class B misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $2,000, and/or up to 180 days in jail. Driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year, and driver will also be required to complete 10 hours of community service.
  2. Second highway racing conviction is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying up to $4,000 in potential fines and up to 1 year in jail.
  3. Third street racing offense is a felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to 2 years in state jail.

In case there was an accident during illegal racing causing injury to people or property damage, your vehicle must also be impounded. Seized vehicles can be reclaimed after additional costs and storage fees are paid.

Felony charges for injuries

Causing any injuries to people during a race upgrades your charges to 3rd degree felony, resulting in 2 to 10 years in prison.

Causing serious bodily injury or death results in 2nd degree felony charges, and your sentence can be up to 20 years of imprisonment and $10,000 fine. Multiple 2nd degree street racing convictions can lead to life in prison.

Other charges

There may be other charges brought against you as well, typically including speeding or reckless driving. Furthermore you may be liable for potential property damage or injuries caused, or evading a police officer if you refuse to stop.

Each of those offenses carries significant penalties: your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked, you can be financially liable for thousands of dollars in fines, fees and surcharges, and in case of multiple offenses you will likely be looking at some jail time. Even an increased auto insurance rate can be costly.

Racing while drunk is also a common violation with significant consequences. Illegal racing while intoxicated results in 2nd degree felony charges. Even having an open container of alcohol (regardless of driver’s blood alcohol level) carries the same penalty.

Misdemeanors and felonies also go on your permanent record which can significantly hurt your chances of future employment.

Fighting street racing charges

Street racing can have serious consequences, and getting professional legal help is highly recommended. There are some case precedents and legal tactics in Texas which can potentially be used as defense in court.

Experienced defense attorneys can claim your were simply speeding next to another vehicle. Prosecution will have to prove you were racing (see “race” and “drag race” definitions from Texas law above).

You may also be able to plea bargain for a reckless driving charge. Speeding tickets or reckless driving punishments and penalties are significantly lower than those for illegal street racing.

As mentioned it is strongly recommended to hire a competent Texas lawyer to help your legal arguments. You can very often bring down the charges from a speed contest or reckless driving down to “simple” speeding, thus reducing your penalties and fines substantially.

This article about Texas Street Racing Laws was last updated in 2019. If any of our information is incomplete or outdated please let us know. Thank you!