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Is Road Rage Illegal?

Posted in Criminal Defense on October 10, 2019

Most of us have heard of “road rage.” We may have a decent grasp of what road rage looks like, though it can be hard to actually define. Road rage is a combination of various incidents that can happen on the roadways. One of the most common questions we hear happens to be – Is road rage illegal?

Aggressive driving, particularly in and around Riverside, is common. Today, we want to look into what road rage is, the penalties for this behavior, as well as crimes that occur due to road rage incidents.

What does road rage look like?

Road rage is not a legal term, though we can use is to define a range of things that happen on the roadway. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operators or passengers of another motor vehicle.”

Road rage is different from aggressive driving. Whereas aggressive driving is only a traffic offense, road rage incidents often lead to criminal offenses. In many cases, road rage includes one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Intentionally tailgating
  • Yelling at another driver
  • Honking to show annoyance
  • Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle intentionally

Crimes that arise from road rage as well as penalties or fines

There is no actual crime of “road rage” on the books in California, but the laws do mention road rage in relation to other crimes. When examining the California Vehicle Code section 13210, we can see that it is a crime to use a car to injure another person who is in a car, on a bicycle, or walking on a roadway. The following criminal offenses could arise from road rage incidents:

  • Assault [California Penal Code 240] – can result in up to six months in county jail, fines, probation, and anger management course requirements.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon/aggravated assault [California Penal Code 245(a)(1)] – punishment ranges from minor fines, community, service and jail time to state prison time, a fine of $10,000, and “strike” as part of the three-strikes system.
  • Battery [California Penal Code 242] – the punishment could include six months in county jail, fines, probation, and anger management course requirements.
  • Brandishing a firearm [California Penal Code 417] – if the road rage incident results in someone brandishing a weapon, they could face a misdemeanor or felony and up to one year in county jail or up to three years n state prison.
  • Criminal threats [California Penal Code 422] – this can result in a misdemeanor or a felony charge, punishable by either county jail time or state prison time.
  • Hit-and-run [California Vehicle Code 20001, 20001a, 20002, 20002a] – there are various punishments in place for hit-and-run offenses. For property damage only offenses, a person can face a misdemeanor charge with jail time and a $1,000 fine. If someone is injured, there can be a misdemeanor or felony charge resulting in six months of jail time or time in state prison. Felony offenses can result in four years of prison time and fines of $10,000.
  • Reckless driving [California Vehicle Code 23103, 23104] – if someone is injured, the driver may be charged with a misdemeanor (90-180 days in jail) or a felony (up to three years in state prison).
  • Vandalism [California Penal Code 240] – if the damage is less than $400, the charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail. If the damage exceeds $400, the crime can be a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.