If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of racing on a highway in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas, you need the help of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to ensure you protect your freedom, your future, and your criminal record.
Can You Street Race In Texas?
No! Under Texas criminal law, it is illegal to engage in street racing in Texas. However, many times police officers are unable to tell if the activity should be characterized as racing on a highway or reckless driving.
It is common for police officers to arrest citizens for the crime of racing on a highway when they hear a witness claim to observe someone driving fast or weaving in and out of traffic. In reality, there can be many reasons why a citizen may have been driving in excess of the speed limit and attempting to weave past traffic.
In fact, I have represented clients charged with the crime of racing on a highway that were driving responsibly in their car when another careless driver attempted to initiate a race and bait my client into a race. In such a situation, no crime was committed, and it was imperative that the case was thoroughly investigated and negotiated for a dismissal of the charges.
If you have been arrested and charged with the crime of Racing on a Highway in Tarrant County, Texas, you need to contact an experienced criminal lawyer to advise you of your options under Texas law. For a thorough understanding of what you are facing under Texas law, you must first determine what the Texas Transportation Code defines as the elements of the crime of racing on a highway.
What Is Racing On A Highway?
According to the Texas Transportation Code, Section 545.420, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will be required to prove the following elements of racing on a highway beyond a reasonable doubt:
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.
“Drag race” is defined as the operation of two or more vehicles from a point side by side at accelerating speeds in a competitive attempt to outdistance each other; or 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.
“Race” means the use of one or more vehicles in an attempt to outgain or outdistance another vehicle or prevent another vehicle from passing; arrive at a given destination ahead of another vehicle or vehicles; or test the physical stamina or endurance of an operator over a long-distance driving route.
What Is The Penalty For Street Racing In Texas?
Determining whether your Tarrant County racing on a highway charge is a felony or misdemeanor crime will be based upon whether someone was injured as a result of the racing or whether the accused has been previously convicted of racing on a highway in Texas.
Texas law breaks down the range of punishment for racing on a highway as follows:
- If the accused has had no previous convictions for racing on a highway and no one was injured as a result of the racing, the crime will be classified as a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a term in the Tarrant County jail of up to 180 days and up to a $2,000 fine.
- If the accused has a prior conviction for racing on a highway or the current charge involved an open container of alcohol, the crime will be classified as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a term in the Tarrant County jail of up to 1 year and up to a $4,000 fine.
- If the accused has two prior convictions for racing on a highway, the crime will be classified as a State Jail Felony punishable by a term in a State Jail facility of not less than 180 days but not more than 2 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
- If an individual was injured and suffered bodily injury as a result of the racing on a highway, the crime will be classified as a third-degree felony punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years but not more than 10 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
- If an individual suffered serious bodily injury or death as a result of the racing on a highway, the crime will be classified as a second-degree felony punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years but not more than 20 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
As you can see, facing a racing on a highway charge can create serious criminal consequences than can forever limit your future and potentially result in a prison sentence.
Defenses To Racing On A Highway Charge In Texas
If you have been accused of racing on a highway, your first priority should be to hire an experienced and aggressive criminal law firm that has a proven track record of obtaining favorable results for those charged with misdemeanor and felony reckless driving. After hiring the best racing on a highway lawyer in Fort Worth, you should educate yourself on the Texas law as it relates to your criminal charge and prepare yourself for defenses you can use to defend your freedom.
Legal Defense – You Did Not “Participate”
Under Texas Transportation Code Section 545.420, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you “participated” in a race, a vehicle speed competition or contest, a drag race or acceleration contest, a test of physical endurance of the operator of a vehicle; or in connection with a drag race, an exhibition of vehicle speed or acceleration or to make a vehicle speed record.
Although the Texas Transportation Code does not specifically define “participate,” the normal meaning of the word would require someone to have acted with criminal intent in order to be found guilty of the crime of racing on a highway. What if you were speeding on a highway but another person passed you traveling faster than you and a police officer noticed that you were both speeding and decided to arrest you for racing on a highway? Was this sufficient to prove the crime of racing on a highway? Not necessarily!
In this situation, BEWARE the questions from the police officer when he pulls you over for street racing and starts asking you questions. Police offices are trained to ask you questions and recognize that just because someone is speeding next to another person speeding, which does not necessarily mean there was street racing going on. The number one tactic the police officer will use is questioning you about what was happening.
Remember, everything you say to a detective can and will be used against you to make it appear you are confessing to the crime of racing on a highway or reckless driving. The police officer will be using every trick in the book to convince you speak to them so that they can piece together enough evidence to establish that you were street racing. In this situation, it is tempting to believe that the more forthcoming you are with the police officer, the better your criminal case will turn out but that is not true. By providing information to the police officer, they may interpret your statements in a manner that allows them to immediately establish probable cause for your arrest.
For example: we represented a client that was riding with friends in his Mustang and decided to drive faster than he should have. As he was driving, he noticed a Porsche 911 coming up fast on his tail and zoomed around him while he was continuing to drive significantly over the speed limit. Our client was pulled over and questioned by the police officer and subsequently arrested for the crime of racing on a highway. The officer admitted in his police report that it appeared to him that both drivers engaged in street racing but did not specify any specific evidence that corroborated that opinion. There was no evidence showing that both cars were trying to outdistance or outgain one another or arrive at a destination ahead of another vehicle. There was no evidence showing that one vehicle was trying to prevent the other from passing or that both vehicles were driving side-by-side accelerating in a competitive race.
At the end of the day, the evidence only showed that there was a car driving rapidly by another car that happened to be speeding and the police officer admitted that it was “possible” that they were not racing. As a result, reasonable doubt was established regarding whether our client “participated” in a street race or drag race.
If the racing on a highway example above had involved serious bodily injury or death, our client would have been facing a felony racing on a highway charge. How can you tell if the accident leading to serious bodily injury or death was the result of street racing or just an accident? The same analysis would apply but you would argue your initial position with a grand jury.
Every felony in Texas must be presented to a grand jury. A grand jury is a panel of citizens that listens to evidence and decides if there is sufficient probable cause to move the case forward as a felony case. If you hire an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth racing on a highway attorney, they can analyze the evidence, prepare an evidence packet highlighting the weakness of the case and make a presentation to a Tarrant County Grand Jury.
The grand jury can then decide as follows:
- True Bill – a true bill by the grand jury is an approval of the case as a felony charge. The case would then be staffed with a felony district court in Fort Worth, Texas and you would be given a schedule of court dates for negotiation with your criminal defense attorney.
- Reduction to a lesser charge – the grand jury could also determine that the case does not show sufficient evidence as a felony and should be reduced to a lesser misdemeanor charge. In this situation, the case would be reassigned to a Tarrant County misdemeanor court for negotiations. For example, the best criminal defense attorneys know that a felony racing on a highway charge can be contested by claiming the element of “serious bodily injury” has not been proven. If it cannot be shown by evidence than the alleged victim suffered a permanent or protracted loss of use of a bodily member or organ, then the racing on a highway charge should be reduced to a Class B Misdemeanor, Racing on a Highway charge.
- No Bill – a no bill is a decision by a grand jury to dismiss the racing on a highway charge. Technically, it is not a dismissal, but it has the same effect. By deciding a no bill, the grand jury has exonerated you of all wrongdoing and you are eligible for an expunction of all arrest and case records.
If you are facing a racing on a highway charge in Tarrant County, it is extremely important to seek counsel from an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth criminal attorney. At The Hampton Law Firm, the number one priority for our criminal defense team, when representing clients charged with reckless driving, is to ensure that they do not have to serve any time in prison or in jail.
In addition, our criminal attorneys work tirelessly to create options that will prevent this charge from becoming a conviction so that your record can be expunged or cleared in the future.
At The Hampton Law Firm, my years of experience as a former Tarrant County Prosecutor and experienced criminal defense attorney can be put to work to help you resolve your case.
If you are facing a racing on a highway charge, call The Hampton Law Firm now so we can discuss the facts of your case and explain your legal options available to you. Contact Jeff Hampton at the Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905.