The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

5 Ways Highway Road Rage Can Land You in Jail

Los Angeles residents know better than anyone just how bad traffic can be, but can your road rage land you in jail?

Interstate 5 in Los Angeles County has been awarded the title of most congested freeway in California, according to The Associated Press. Congratulations? With heavy delays and gridlock, even the most Zen person might consider taking their anger out on their fellow drivers.

However, consider using deep breathing methods instead of lashing out because your road rage can land get you into serious legal trouble.

1. Assault: One way your highway road rage can send you to jail is if you assault someone. Assault doesn't require any actual touching or bodily harm. All that's needed is an unlawful attempt to cause violent injury to another person and the capacity to do so. For example, speeding forward to run a jaywalker over when they're standing in front of your car could be perceived as an assault.

2. Harassment: Unlike workplace harassment, criminal harassment means intentionally targeting someone else in an effort to torment, alarm, annoying, or terrorize them. Road rage harassment can include tailgating someone who cut you off for a long distance or following them home in retaliation.

3. Reckless Driving: Reckless driving is driving with a conscious disregard for those on the road. For example, weaving in and out of freeway lanes at high speeds when there is stop-and-go traffic could be considered reckless driving. Punishments for reckless driving may be as little as five days in jail or as much as six months -- especially if someone is injured due to your recklessness.

4. Vehicular Manslaughter: Venting to your friend via text about the gridlock while you're on the road is illegal in California. However, if the texting distracts you to the point of running someone over, you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. A conviction for vehicular manslaughter requires that the driver to have been grossly negligent or knowingly disregard the safety of others in causing a death via car. Focusing on your road rage texts/tweets rather than on the road is likely to be considered grossly negligent conduct.

5. DUI: DUIs aren't limited to drunk driving. Driving under the influence of drugs can also result in a DUI, even if the drug is legally prescribed. Some drivers may be prescribed anti-anxiety medication to help them cope with their stress. However, if these drugs impair your ability to drive, you could be charged with a DUI by popping them to soothe your gridlock rage.

According to the AP, six of the top ten most congested freeways in California are found in Los Angeles County, so Los Angelenos should be extra aware of the gridlock conditions that could spark criminal road rage behavior.

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