Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney for Racing on a Highway in Houston

Houston has developed a large and growing street racing culture. If you have been arrested, then you probably already know how serious the charge is. The activity is a dangerous and serious one, and the penalties that follow a conviction can be just as serious.

But court-imposed penalties often do not amount to the punishment society imposes even after you have paid your so-called debt via incarceration and/or fines. Penalties imposed by society are the kind that can deplete your quality of life. You will find it hard to obtain a loan, get a job, or secure safe housing. Worse yet, if you are convicted of a felony racing on the highway offense, then the stakes are higher: as a felon, you can lose your right to vote or your right to own and use a firearm.

Racing on the highway may sound harmless, especially when it's done late at night when no one else is on the highway, but still, it remains a dangerous activity. High speeds can lead to accidents that can lead to serious property damage, serious injuries, and even death. That's why -- in theory at least -- police officers and the State takes the crime so seriously. They will throw the book at you. They will do whatever it takes to get a conviction, even if it is a lesser offense conviction. They want you behind bars.

Doug Murphy, on the other hand, wants to secure your freedom and help you be free of a criminal record. Most persons charged with this offense are young; most suspects are in their low twenties but some are not yet twenty. You have your whole life before you. Doug Murphy doesn't want to see a mistake turn your life upside down.

Doug Murphy has a reputation for aggressive, smart defense. His former clients can attest to the same. He also has more than twenty years of trial experience. His case results can attest to the same as well. His commitment to criminal defense takes him beyond the courtroom, too. He is often asked to speak about his knowledge and experience to his colleagues. These speaking engagements testify to his insight and skills he has acquired over the years via his vast and varied legal experience. If you want to fight the charge with the intention to prevent a conviction, then contact Doug Murphy today.

In the meantime, Doug Murphy answers your many questions about the offense of racing on the highway. Read the below and then prepare your specific questions to ask him at your free initial consultation.

What is the offense of Racing on a Highway in Texas?

Racing on a highway, also commonly called drag racing or speed racing, is an offense found under Texas Statute § 545.420. The Statute is vague but states that you are prohibited from participating 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.

The statute goes on to define the terms: drag race and race.

Drag race is defined by the statute 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 is defined by the statute as 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 must the State prove to get a conviction of Racing on a Highway in Harris County, Texas?

You should never plead guilty at your arraignment when charged with the crimes of Racing on a Highway. If you plead guilty right away, you lose the opportunity to defend yourself and, at the same time, may have subjected yourself to harsher sentencing.

So, if charged with Racing on a Highway or any other crime, always plead not guilty at the arraignment and then find yourself an experienced Board Certified criminal defense lawyer to outline all your options.  Proving the offense is quite difficult in Texas. And Doug Murphy, Board Certified criminal defense lawyer in Houston, will hold the judge and jury and prosecutor accountable to the principle you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

To prove that you are guilty, all elements of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The means proving that you were indeed in a race, a speed competition, or acceleration competition, or you were testing your driving endurance against another driver of another vehicle. In this type of situation, there are multiple other reasons why you may have been speeding on the highway. Your defenses and defense strategy will depend on the facts and circumstances.

What are the possible defenses for a Racing on a Highway charge in Harris County, TX?

There are defenses and there are ways to challenge and defeat a charge of Racing on a Highway. Here are some strategies that could possibly apply in your unique situation.

Failure to Prove the Elements

As mentioned, there are defenses that can be applied to counter the State's arguments. If the State, however, cannot prove each element of the crime, then it fails. You will be acquitted at trial unless the failure is realized before trial and your attorney successfully negotiates a dismissal of the charge.

Examples of defenses include:

  • You were not speeding. How did the officer determine your speed? Was it via pacing, aircraft, radar, laser, or other means? These methods are not always accurate and can be challenged.

Example: You were driving on a highway in Houston when the sirens suddenly sound. The police car is behind you. Then another police car. You pull over as does another vehicle. After questioning, you are charged with the offense of Racing on a Highway along with several other driving offenses. You are annoyed because you weren't racing. It turns out the police were using a radar to track your speed. Unfortunately for the police, however, the officer using it was never properly trained. The machine itself was also not properly calibrated as identified by the calibration records. The evidence for speeding is not admissible.

  • You were either speeding beside another speeding car or passing another car while speeding. The prosecutor must prove you were racing, which means you started at the same time at one point and racing to an endpoint. This defense counters to the prosecution's argument, but it still admits to speeding, in which case a lesser charge like speeding or reckless driving may be imposed.

Example: You were speeding along Almeda Road near Beltway 8, and the person driving beside you was also speeding. The sirens are sounded, and you notice two police cars behind you. You pull over. So does the other driver. You are charged with Racing on a Highway. You protest. When you tried to pass the person, he or she sped up. You needed the next exit and so you also sped up to pass him or her and then that's when the police arrived on the scene and pulled you over. If you have never been previously arrested for the same charge, then there is no precedent that you were indeed racing, and if the police cannot prove you started at the same point or that you were testing your endurance as a driver, then the State is likely to fail.

  • You did not cause the accident that led to injury or death. In limited cases of Racing on a Highway, accidents are involved. The injuries suffered can be serious or deadly. If you are charged with Racing on a Highway and it involved an accident with serious or fatal injuries, then the charge will be classified as a felony. That means many more years in a state prison and steeper fines.

Example. You and another car are speeding on the highway and the other driver swerves, causing you to swerve, and both of you crash. A passenger in the other vehicle suffered serious injuries. Your attorney will argue that another cause (e.g., the other motorist swerve into your lane) led to the accident and that in fact, the accident was not caused by racing.

What are the penalties for Texas Racing Offenses?

If you fail to retain a Board Certified criminal defense attorney who cannot put forth a strategic defense for you, then you may be convicted of the crime. A conviction carries serious consequences regardless of whether or not the charge is filed as a misdemeanor or felony. Felonies, of course, are accompanied by harsher penalties than misdemeanors. The classification of the crime is determined by the circumstances and facts of the case, like:

  • Have you been convicted of the offense before?
  • Were you also intoxicated?
  • Was there an accident? If so, was there property damage, serious bodily injuries, or fatal injuries involved in the accident?

The classifications and related penalties are listed in the table below.

Circumstances of the Crime


Potential Incarceration Range

Potential Fine

First Offense

Class B Misdemeanor

Up to 180 days in a county jail

Up to $2,000

Second Offense

Class A Misdemeanor

Up to one year in jail

Up to $4,000

First Offense &

Operating the vehicle while intoxicated (DWI), according to Tex. Pen. Code § 49.01

Class A Misdemeanor

180 days to one year in jail

Up to $4,000

First Offense & in possession of an open container, according to Tex. Pen. Code § 49.031

Class A Misdemeanor

180 days to one year in jail

Up to $4,000

Third Offense

State Jail Felony

6 months to two years in jail

Up to $10,000

Racing on a highway and as a result, another person suffered bodily injury

Felony of the Third Degree

Two to 10 years in state prison

Up to $10,000

Racing on a highway and as a result, another person suffered serious bodily injury or death

Felony of the Second Degree

Two to 20 years in state prison

Up to $10,000

You can also expect your license to be suspended and community service to be imposed as an additional punishment. Licenses suspension can be up to one year, depending on the circumstances. You will also be responsible for any property damage and may be forced to pay restitution by the court.

What other charges often accompany a Racing on a Highway charge in Houston?

There are often other driving-related charges that accompany a Racing on a Highway charge. These usually include:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless Driving
  • Evading a Police Officer
  • Driving While Intoxicated
  • Open Container.

Each of the above crimes carries additional significant penalties, including but not limited to:

  • Fines
  • Possible confinement
  • Driver's license suspension or revocation
  • Court fees and surcharges
  • Liability for property damage or injuries,
  • Among other penalties.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is defined in Transportation Code § 545.401 and means driving a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Reckless driving is usually charged as a Class C or Class B misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the alleged crime. That means the potential for jail time of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000.

Evading a Police Officer

Evading a police officer is defined by Texas Penal Code § 38.034 and states that a person commits this crime when he or she “intentionally flees from a person he [or she] knows is a peace officer attempting to lawfully arrest or detain him" or her. This charge can be classified as a Class A misdemeanor, a state jail felony, a fourth-degree felony, or a third-degree felony, depending on any past convictions or the manner in which the crime was committed.

Driving While Intoxicated

Driving while intoxicated is a serious offense and becomes more so with each conviction. Without any aggravating circumstances, DWIs are charged as follows:

  • a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense with penalties ranging from up to 180 days in jail and up to $2,000 in fines;
  • a Class A misdemeanor for a second offense with penalties ranging from up to 1 year in county jail and up to $4,000 in fines; and
  • a third-degree felony for a third offense with penalties ranging from up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

As mentioned, if there are any aggravating circumstances, the charges can be enhanced as well as the sentencing upon a conviction.

Open Container

The offense of open container, also known as possession of alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle as defined by Tex. Pen. Code § 49.031(a)(1), is a Class C misdemeanor. As such, the penalties include no jail time but can include a fine of up to $500.

Common Questions Clients Have about Racing on a Highway

If you are arrested for Racing on a Highway, you may have many more questions than what is answered in the above sections. Below are some other common questions clients have had. But to obtain direct, honest answers about your specific case, you still want to contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a free initial consultation.

What happens to your vehicle after arrested for Racing on a Highway in Houston?

When you are arrested on a Racing on a Highway charge, you may ordinarily be able to have someone pick it up unless there was an accident. If an accident occurred, it must be seized by the police if it resulted in any of the following:

  • There was property damage;
  • A person was injured; or
  • A person was killed.

You can only reclaim the vehicle once all fees -- removal and storage -- are satisfied.

What happens to repeat offenders of Racing on a Highway in Houston?

If you are a repeat offender of the crime Racing on a Highway, the classification increases each time, and along with the increase is the increase in penalties. The crime, which is usually a Class B misdemeanor, can eventually be filed as a second-degree felony.

Then, if you are found guilty after receiving two felonies, you can anticipate a penalty that could include life in prison.

As such, you don't want to get a conviction of Racing on a Highway, no matter how minor you think the crime is.

What happens to passengers of drivers charged with racing on a Highway in Houston?

Passengers do not always get off scot-free. Passengers of a person charged with Racing on a Highway can also be charged with the same or other criminal activity.

What happens to spectators of a street race in the Houston metropolitan area?

Spectators, too, do not get off scot-free all the time. If you are found at an unsanctioned, illegal drag racing event in Houston and if you have a vehicle there -- it could be seized along with any other items the police find, like marijuana or drug paraphernalia. You will be charged with related crimes as well.

What happens if charged with DWI and Racing on a Highway in Houston?

If charged with a DWI in addition to Racing on a Highway, the classification of the Racing on a Highway offense is enhanced, meaning the possibility of harsher penalties. The DWI charge is separate from the Racing on a Highway charge, too, which can also mean more penalties.

If charged with a DWI alongside Racing on a Highway, then you want an attorney who is  Board Certified in DWI defense as well as Board Certified in criminal defense. There are only two attorneys in all of Texas with this distinction: Board Certification in both at the same time. Doug Murphy is one of them, and he is conveniently located in Houston, Texas.  His expertise in both areas really provides the best defense you can get when faced with a serious racing charge.

What happens if you kill someone while streetcar racing in Houston?

If someone dies due to an accident caused by you while racing on a highway in the Houston metropolitan area, then you can be charged with manslaughtervehicular manslaughter particularly. The penalties associated with it are severe and can mean significant time in prison.

When should you contact an aggressive and smart Racing on a Highway criminal defense attorney in Houston?

When you have been charged with the offense of Racing on a Highway is the time you should retain a criminal defense attorney. But if you want the best defense you can get, then it is important to retain the legal counsel of an experienced Board Certified criminal defense attorney who has a proven track record of developing aggressive, successful defense strategies.

Doug Murphy will review your case and provide honest options. He is committed. He has the resources. And he has the skill. If you want to fight your charge, then contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.

Contact Us Today

If you are facing DWI or other criminal charges in Texas, contact our office today to discuss your case, so we can begin working on your defense. Please provide only your personal email and cell phone number so that we can immediately and confidentially communicate with you.