Road rage is generally described as when a vehicle driver overreacts or exaggerates a perceived act on the road by another driver and then makes an instant decision to express their anger in a violent threatening manner.
This of course includes flipping off the driver while aggressively blowing their car horn, along with tailgating, shouting, verbal insults, threats, gestures, and driving in a swerving reckless manner.
Put simply, road rage is an extreme overreaction in an attempt to intimidate another driver or to release frustration. In many cases, they will challenge the other driver to pull over and fight.
In the state of California, road incidents could result in criminal charges and a DMV driver's license suspension. Clearly, the type of crime one could face will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.
Some of the most common California statutes used by prosecutors for road rage incidents include PC 240 simple assault, PC 242 battery, PC 422 criminal threats, VC 23103 aggressive or reckless driving, among others.
Further, California Vehicle Code 13210 VC is the statute authorizing the DMV to suspend a driver's license for engaging in road rage behaviors. The suspension will be for a period of 6 months for a first offense and one year for a second or subsequent offenses.
For more information, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will closely review the laws below.
Potential Charges in Road Rage Incidents
As noted, there are a variety of legal actions that can be taken against someone who was the aggressor in a road rage incident, depending on the details of what happened. These include:
- Vehicle Code 13210 VC – driver's license suspension,
- Vehicle Code 23103 VC – reckless driving,
- Vehicle Code 23152 VC – driving under the influence,
- Penal Code 240 PC – simple assault,
- Penal Code 242 PC – battery,
- Penal Code 243(d) – aggravated battery,
- Penal Code 245(a)(1) – 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.
Readers should note that California Vehicle Code 13210 VC enables the DMV to suspend someone's driver's license for a road rage incident.
The suspension will be 6 months for a first offense and up to a year for further offenses. They can suspend a license by finding a driver lacks the skills to drive, or by declaring them to be a negligent operator.
VC 23103 reckless driving law makes it a crime to drive a vehicle in a manner in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.
This includes excessive speeding, following too closely, swerving, or other aggressive driving putting others at risk. If convicted, you are facing up to 3 months in jail, and a fine up to $1,000.
If someone sustained a great bodily injury (GBI) due to your reckless driving, the penalties are more severe.
PC 240 assault charges can be filed if the aggressive driver threatens, or attempts to apply force, against the other car driver, and they had a reasonable belief the aggressor had the ability to do so.
Assault under this statute is always a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to six months in a county jail and a fine up to $1,000.
PC 242 battery charges can be filed in a road rage incident if someone strikes or uses some type of physical force against the other driver.
If convicted, the penalties include up to six months in a county jail and a fine up to $2,000. If the battery caused serious bodily injuries, then a prosecutor could file charges un Penal Code 243(d) aggravated battery that carries harsh penalties.
PC 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon charges could be filed if a driver used their vehicle in a manner that is consistent with assaulting someone.
This statute is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, which carries up to four years in a California state prison.
If the driver pulled out a weapon and displayed it at the other driver, then they could be charged with brandishing a firearm under Penal Code 417 PC.
PC 187 murder charges can be filed against the aggressor in a road rage incident is a driver is killed.
This statute requires malice aforethought, which means the killer acted with a wanton disregard for human life, or their behavior involved a high degree of probability it would result in someone's death.
Gun Enhancements and a “Strike” under the Three Strikes Law
There's a lot of road range going on right now in Los Angeles county where people are crashing into other people's cars, threatening people and even using guns and firing weapons at cars.
Prosecutors are now in a position where they're going to have to do something about this, because if they don't, it will only continue and only get worse.
So, they're going to be looking to put somebody in prison who is involved in a road rage situation where a gun was used for sure. Readers should note:
- there are gun enhancements that they can use, such as Penal Code 12022.53 PC – California's “10-20-Life, use a gun and you're done” law.
- if you're charged with Penal Code 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon, attached to a road rage case, that's a “strike” under California's three strikes law. You're looking at prison.
- if the bullet hit somebody, that's a 25-year enhancement. You can also be charged with California Penal Code 664/187 attempted murder.
So, those people who are using guns related to road rage situations, they need an attorney right away, because they're looking at potentially spending the rest of their life in prison. Not even the new DA's policies are going to help some people who are shooting weapons at other people.
What if Nobody Was Hurt in a Road Rage Incident?
If on the other hand, nobody gets hurt in your case. You don't have a weapon, but you're being charged with some sort of a crime, like PC 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon related to a road rage incident.
Now, you may have a chance to defend yourself, because I've noticed, having handled these cases for almost three decades, hundreds of them, that a lot of times, there's another side of the story, for example:
- the other side is that the person that you're involved with was also doing things that they shouldn't have been doing;
- that particular person was, for example, driving crazy, driving recklessly, and it wasn't necessarily, your complete fault what happened.
So, obviously, we have to sit down and look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the case and make the right moves in order to properly defend you.
Sometimes that requires fighting the case, cross-examining the witnesses and showing the other side of the story.
Other times, if they've got good evidence against you, I need to sit down with the head prosecutor and give them the mitigation package with character letters about you and your side of the story.
Because a lot of times in these road rage situations, the police don't take into account your side of the story. They've only got a one-sided investigation going that doesn't look at everything.
So, it's my job to point out the other side of the story. Sometimes, I'm simply able to do that by reviewing the police report and the evidence that they have and giving the defense's version of events.
Other times, we have to send an investigator out. It just depends on what makes sense according to the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
Criminal Defense for Road Rage Incidents
So, if you or a loved one is charged with a road rage incident in the state of California, whether it involved a gun, whether it involved the car being used as a weapon; or whether it just simply involved dangerous behavior, we can help you.
Sometimes I see Vehicle Code 23152 DUI charges from these cases, and sometimes I see assault with a deadly weapon because the car is allegedly being used as a weapon, and sometimes I'm seeing people actually firing weapons.
So, it really depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case as to what you're facing.
But I know for sure, if you don't have a powerful attorney at your side, your own advocate telling your story, then you're going to be in a much worse position than you would be in if you handled it the right way.
So, pick up the phone now. Make the call. Set up a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.
If you're charged with a road rage-related offense, or a loved one that you know has been arrested and is in custody and you need help. Make the call now.
Hedding Law Firm has two office locations in LA county, including 2049 Century Park E #2525 Los Angeles, CA 90067. We offer a free case evaluation by calling (213) 542-0979, or fill out our contact form.