Is Road Rage a Crime in California?

Posted By Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners || 1-Sep-2016

Road Rage is aggressive or violent driving done intentionally and maliciously with disregard for public safety. Some behaviors that lead to Road Rage include:

  • Cutting off a driver
  • Driving too slow on the fast lane
  • Making obscene gestures to other drivers
  • Yelling or using profanity
  • Making threats to other drivers
  • Blocking traffic
  • Using your horn excessively
  • Brandishing a firearm or a weapon
  • Tailgating
  • Using your cell phone while driving
  • Changing lanes too quickly without using your turn signal
  • Flashing your headlights or using your high beams at oncoming drivers

Road Rage can lead to a number of criminal offenses, both misdemeanors and felonies, which can result in a county jail or state prison sentence, hefty fines, and worst of all a permanent criminal record. While Road Rage isn't a crime, there are several crimes that typically arise from Road Rage incidents:

  • Assault: California Penal Code section 240 outlines the definition of assault, which is the willful attempt or threat to hurt or injure another person. Physical contact need not be made with the victim – an attempt to injure is enough for a person to be convicted of this crime. If you are involved in a Road Rage incident and attempted to throw something at another driver, but missed, you could still be prosecuted for assault. A conviction may result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in county jail.
  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon: According to California Penal Code section 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon is defined as causing or intending to cause injury to a person with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm. A deadly weapon or instrument could include a tire iron, screw driver, hammer or even the car itself, if the driver of the car tries to run over another driver. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, assault with a deadly weapon can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, and carries penalties of one to four years in jail or state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Battery: California Penal Code Section 242 states that a person is guilty of battery (simple battery) if they willfully and unlawfully use force or violence against another person. Getting out of a vehicle in a road rage incident to hit, punch or shove another person can be considered battery. The punishment for battery is up to six months in county jail. If, however, there is serious bodily injury and it is charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment is up to one year in county jail. If the injury is considered great bodily injury (broken nose or bone and/or a concussion) it will be charged as a felony punishable by up to four years in state prison.
  • Criminal Threats: One of the most common examples of Road Rage includes threatening death, injury or harm, to another driver. Rolling down the window or jumping out of a car and threatening to kill someone, or making any other threat that causes another person to reasonably fear for their safety, is punishable under the law. California Penal Code section 422 states that criminal threats are punishable by up to one year in county jail for a misdemeanor conviction or up to four years in state prison for a felony conviction. These penalties may be enhanced if the threats included a deadly weapon. Criminal threats can be charged even if you didn't intend to carry out the threat.
  • Hit and Run: California Vehicle Code sections 20001 and 20002 define hit and run as an incident in which a driver flees the scene of an accident without exchanging contact and insurance information with the other driver. If an irritated driver purposely or accidentally rams their vehicle into another vehicle in a Road Rage incident and then speeds off, they can be prosecuted for hit and run. Hit and run resulting in property damage is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. Hit and run resulting in serious, permanent injury or death is prosecuted as a felony and is punishable by up to four years in state prison, with fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
  • Reckless Driving: California Vehicle Code sections 23103 and 23104 state that a driver is guilty of reckless driving if they willfully or maliciously drive with a disregard for the safety of other people and property – tailgating, speeding, or intentionally swerving to block another driver. Reckless driving that doesn’t result in injury is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of between $145 and $1,000, with up to six months of jail time. A felony can be charged if the reckless driving results in great bodily injury to another person, punishable by up to three years in state prison. These penalties may be enhanced if the defendant has prior reckless driving or DUI convictions.
  • Vandalism: California Penal Code section 594 makes it a crime to damage or destroy someone else's property. Example: You exit your car and approach another driver and kick the driver's door or key the car. The penalties for vandalism will depend on the dollar value of the property damaged or destroyed. If the damage is less than $400, it will be charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail. If the damage exceeds $400 then the crime can be prosecuted as a felony punishable by up to three years in state prison.

If you have been accused of a crime related to a Road Rage incident in the Los Angeles area, consult with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys immediately. Do not speak to law enforcement until you have consulted with us. Our top-rated legal team has over 70 years of combined criminal law experience defending clients in even the toughest criminal matters. Contact us today to learn more about how we may help you.

Call (213) 481-6811 to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation.

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