Is Road Rage a Crime in California?
Driving today can be quite stressful, especially if you live in a high-traffic city like Oakland, in the notoriously densely populated state of California. Heavy traffic may cause you to be late to an appointment and put wear and tear on your car. Once there’s a break in traffic, you might speed up to make up for all the lost time you were stuck on the road waiting to move. You could become frustrated at the very least or lose your cool and drive aggressively, taking your anger out on other drivers.
In the worst-case scenario, when you’re aggressive behind the wheel, you could end up hurting yourself or other people on the road and get hit with criminal charges.
By learning about what’s called road rage and the possible criminal charges associated with it, you can control your behavior and avoid getting arrested. If you’ve already been arrested for a road-rage related crime, then you can learn what to do next to ensure the best outcome possible.
What Is Road Rage?
Road rage is angry or aggressive behavior that you exhibit when you’re behind the wheel of a car. It can include speeding, tailgating, yelling at other drivers, gesturing angrily at people, stopping another vehicle from switching into a different lane, honking, ramming into another car on purpose, and getting out of your car to confront another driver or threatening them with a weapon.
Certain behaviors are not only violent and rude; they also are illegal. Just because you are upset, it doesn’t mean you have the right to threaten somebody. And if you do take your road rage too far, you could be arrested and charged with a crime.
Criminal Charges Related to Road Rage
Road rage itself is not a criminal offense, however, the behaviors you exhibit because of road rage could very well result in criminal charges. With certain charges, you could have to pay hefty fines, have your driver’s license suspended, go to prison or jail, and face other consequences that could follow you around for the rest of your life.
Here are the criminal charges you could end up being charged with because of road rage.
Reckless or Aggressive Driving
It is a crime to drive recklessly or aggressively, which means you have a disregard for the safety of property or other people. This could include swerving, speeding, tailgating, or drag or street racing, and you could have to serve time in county jail for five to 90 days. You might also have to pay fines ranging between $145 and $1,000, receive two points on your driver’s license, and have your car impounded. If your aggressive or reckless driving results in damage, then the penalties you’re dealing with could be much worse.
Assault or Assault With a Deadly Weapon
If you threaten or attempt to hurt another person, you could get charged with assault. If convicted of this misdemeanor, you may have to spend up to six months in jail and pay $1,000 in fines.
A car is considered a deadly weapon, so you could also be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. This may apply if you hit a biker or a pedestrian because you were angry with them. The charge could be a misdemeanor or a felony; if you are convicted of a felony, you could have to go to state prison for four years. If you took out a gun and waved it at the other person, then you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony and go to county jail for up to one year or state prison for up to three years.
Let’s say you stepped out of your car and punched or kicked another person because of your road rage. This could be categorized as battery, and the penalties include up to six months in county jail as well as up to $2,000 in fines. If the person got seriously injured, then you could face even steeper penalties.
If you damage or destroy someone else’s property, then it could be classified as vandalism. For instance, perhaps you got out of your vehicle to key another driver’s car. The consequences for vandalism are going to depend on how serious the damage ended up being. If there is $400 or less worth of damage, then you could be charged with a misdemeanor and go to county jail for up to six months. If the damage is worth more than $400, then you could be charged with a felony and spend up to three years in state prison.
Hit and Run
A hit and run means that you hit another person, vehicle, or piece of property and then fled without leaving a note or attempting to reconcile the situation. For example, you may have been upset with another driver and hit their car and sped away. If damage to property occurs, then you could be convicted of a misdemeanor and go to jail and have to pay a fine of up to $1,000. If you injure someone, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on how serious the injuries are. If you’re charged with a misdemeanor, then you may have to go county jail for up to six months, and if you’re charged with a felony, you could have to spend up to four years in state prison and pay up to $10,000 in fines.
One thing you should realize is that if you get into an accident because of your road rage, you could also be held liable on a civil level as well. This means that the other driver could file a claim against your insurance company and/or you. Your insurance rates could go up and you might have to pay for damage out of pocket.
How to Avoid Road Rage
There are many different steps you can take to avoid getting caught up in road rage. It’s completely understandable that with all the traffic in Oakland and California in general that you’ll be angry sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that you need to lash out or get aggressive with others. Here are some ways to prevent road rage.
Leave yourself plenty of time. If you have to go to work or run a time-sensitive errand, then don’t leave the house at the last minute. Instead, calculate how long it’s going to take to get to your destination and then give yourself some extra time just in case there is an accident or lots of traffic. Waze or Google Maps are great tools for calculating the time of your commute.
- Pay attention when driving. If you are texting, fiddling with the radio, eating, or are otherwise distracted, you could end up making a wrong turn or not driving properly and get frustrated. Put the phone and other distractions down as soon as you get in the car. Also, let your kids know how important it is that you concentrate on the road if they’re making noise in the backseat.
- Let other drivers into your lane. Be courteous and let other drivers into your lane when it’s safe. This applies especially if there has been an accident or there is roadwork going on and other drivers have no choice but to merge into your lane. Don’t speed up or honk at them.
- Don’t tailgate. If you tailgate, it could end up causing an accident. Leave room between your car and the car ahead of you, especially when you’re driving on the highway and may need to make last minute decisions at high speeds.
- Drive when there isn’t as much traffic. If you can help it, leave your house when it isn’t rush hour. If you have a job that is flexible, perhaps you could go to work during odd hours or work from home, for instance.
- Avoid driving in certain weather conditions. If it’s raining outside, or if the glare is so bad that you can’t see very well, then stay home and wait to drive until it becomes easier.
- Move away from bad drivers. If you notice another driver is swerving their car or speeding, get away from them.
- Don’t threaten anyone or respond to threats. If another driver curses you out or gives you the middle finger, you may be tempted to give it right back to them. It’s best to ignore them. If they follow you, drive to the nearest police station instead of driving home – that’ll be much safer and discourage the driver from doing anything to you.
- Pull over if you have to. If you feel so angry or frustrated that it’s impairing your driving, then pull over to a safe spot and wait a few minutes until you get back on the road.
- Try relaxation techniques. You could put on your favorite band or podcast or do some deep breathing when you’re behind the wheel if you feel yourself getting angry.
By putting these techniques into practice, you can prevent your anger from getting so bad that it causes you to take reckless actions and protect yourself and others on the road.
What If I’ve Been Charged With a Crime Already?
If your road rage got so out of control that you got arrested and charged with a crime, there are some crucial steps to take so that you can guarantee the best outcome possible for your situation.
If you haven’t already, write down all the details surrounding your arrest. Did the cops read you your Miranda rights, which is your right to remain silent? Did they search you? Were you given a phone call when you were behind bars? If the cops messed up in any way, then this could help you with your case.
Next, you need to find representation in the form of an Oakland criminal defense attorney. While you have the right to use the free court-appointed lawyer, also known as a public defender, these lawyers are typically overworked. Some may be handling over 100 cases at the same time and wouldn’t be able to give your case the attention it deserves.
This could have a very negative effect on your future, resulting in you having to serve time behind bars and getting a criminal record. Going to college, finding a job, and securing housing are all going to be much more difficult if you’ve been convicted of a crime.
Instead, you need to find an Oakland criminal defense attorney with years of experience and the case results to back it up. With their help, you could get your charges reduced or dropped altogether and not have to deal with some of the more devastating consequences of criminal charges.
Make sure that when you’re looking for a lawyer, you find someone who is available around the clock should you need them in an emergency. They should also be communicative with you every step of the way, explain the criminal charges process to you, and advise you on what to do to defend yourself and not get into anymore trouble. Then, you could have a brighter future ahead.
Hiring an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney
To hire the best Oakland criminal defense attorney, look for one who has several years of experience with road rage-related cases and excellent case results. Elliot Silver of Silver Law Firm would make a great representative for your case. Just look at his past results.
In one case, a client was charged with felony-level evading after a high-speed chase from the cops. He could have received significant criminal penalties, including jail time and a strike. Elliot Silver convinced this client to undergo 90 days of in-patient alcohol treatment. Then, he negotiated to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, and the client didn’t have to spend any time behind bars.
If you’ve been charged with a crime related to road rage and don’t know where to turn, reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you and helping with your case.