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What Happens If You Use a Gun in a Road Rage Incident?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jul 14, 2022

Road rage is generally described as a driver overreacting to a perceived act on the road by another driver and immediately expressing their anger in an overt threatening manner.

What Happens If You Use a Gun in a Road Rage Incident?

Put simply, road rage incidents usually involve a situation where a car driver overreacts to a perceived provocation on a road or highway and instantly decides to vent their anger and frustration violently. In most cases, it includes:

  • flipping off the other driver,
  • blowing their car horn aggressively,
  • screaming verbal insults out the window,
  • tailgating,
  • making threats,
  • hand gestures, and
  • driving their car in a swerving reckless manner.

Road rage is an exaggerated overreaction to intimidate the other driver or to vent their anger and frustration. Sometimes, they will challenge the other driver to pull over and fight.

Road rage incidents have risen and are a significant concern on crowded streets and highways in California. Data shows that many fatal car wrecks can be connected to road rage incidents.

Road rage incidents could result in criminal charges and a license suspension by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Most road rage incidents are relatively minor and don't involve conduct that reaches the level of breaking any laws. Still, some more severe cases even involve the use of a weapon.

California law does not have a specific road rage law, but prosecutors will use other statutes to charge someone with a crime. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will examine this topic further below.

What Are the Possible Criminal Charges in Road Rage Incidents?

Numerous legal actions can be taken against a person who was the aggressor in a road rage incident, but will always depend on the specific details of the case, such as:

  • Vehicle Code 23103 VC – reckless driving,
  • Penal Code 240 PC – assault,
  • Penal Code 242 PC – battery,
  • Penal Code 243(d) PC – aggravated battery,
  • Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC – assault with a deadly weapon,
  • Penal Code 417 PC – brandishing a weapon,
  • Penal Code 12022.53 PC – gun enhancement law,
  • Penal Code 664/187 – attempted murder,
  • Penal Code 187 PC – murder,
  • Vehicle Code 23152 VC – driving under the influence.

California Vehicle Code 13210 VC allows the DMV to suspend somebody's driver's license for a road rage incident. The suspension will last six months for the first offense and a year for subsequent offenses. They can suspend a driver's license by finding a car driver who lacks the skills to drive or by declaring them a negligent operator.

Can You Be Charged with Attempted Murder?

Possibly. More and more, especially in Los Angeles County and surrounding counties, people resort to using guns to settle issues on the road.  As far as what will happen to you, it depends on how you use the weapon.

California Penal Code 664/187 Attempted Murder

If you fire the gun, you could be charged with attempted murder which carries 15 to life.  Shooting at an occupied vehicle and assault with a deadly weapon are all strikes.

All of those can cause a massive problem for you.  If the bullet hits the person, in addition to the attempted murder charge, there's a 25-year enhancement for firing a gun at somebody illegally and striking them.

If, on the other hand, you show the gun, then you'd probably be looking at brandishing a weapon or assault with a deadly weapon if you pointed it at the person versus just flashing the firearm and not pointing it at them.  A host of problems can come your way by using a gun during a road rage incident.

What Are the Best Defenses for Road Rage-Related Charges?

There are also defenses.  In other words, if somebody uses a gun and points it at you or fires at you, and you use a gun to defend yourself, you may have self-defense.

This will depend on the circumstances, but most people realize it's never a good idea to use a gun during an incident, let alone on the road when you can hit somebody with bullets.  Prosecutors and judges frown on that sort of behavior. So, I'm going to need to see what the circumstances are:

  • Was the other person doing something violent to you?
  • Did they threaten you?
  • Did they have a weapon?

But, if you were caught using a gun, it would depend on how you used it.  That will dictate what your punishment will be in the end. Also, they'll look at your criminal record.

They'll look at whether anybody was injured, and of course, they'll look at the surrounding circumstances of the case, such as if the other person was acting recklessly.  The prosecutors will undoubtedly factor that in, and of course, we got to get not only your side of the story across to the prosecutors and the judge but also:

  • we want them to know about you,
  • your background,
  • your family,
  • your job,

Because I often see people become angry and do something stupid in a fit of rage, but that's not them.  That's not their persona, usually.  It's an aberration.  It shouldn't have happened.  They're sorry about it, and we try to get that across to the judge.

Initial Strategy Meeting in My Office

What I have you do is come into the office and give me the whole story. I'm going to take notes, and you and I will figure out what the strategy will be.

Of course, I will put my experience to work for you, having been a criminal defense attorney for nearly 30 years. I worked for the district attorney's office in the early 1990s, so I saw how they dealt with these road rage situations in LA county.

I also worked for a superior court judge, so I got an idea of how judges deal with problems. Finally, in 1994, I became a criminal defense attorney defending people like you in hundreds of cases related to your circumstances.  So, I've been down the road you're about to travel.  I've had success.

Pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm provides a free case consultation by phone or uses the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.