The term “road rage” was originally coined by a local Los Angeles news station in the 1990’s, leaving many to wonder if the phrase holds any legal weight… is road rage a criminal offense?
In the state of Texas, there are no set laws using the term “road rage.” That said, acts of road rage that end in violence or endanger persons or property are recognized by the state as reckless driving or aggressive driving. These charges can result in criminal convictions including fines, the loss of your driver’s license, and even jail time. In a worst-case scenario, you may even be convicted as a felon.
If you’ve recently been arrested for road rage charges in Houston, the best thing you can be is prepared. In this article, the trial-tested criminal defense attorneys from Thiessen Law Firm are here to help you understand the road rage laws in Texas.
Reckless vs. aggressive driving
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, within the previous 30 days, almost 80% of drivers expressed that they felt significant anger, aggression, or road rage while behind the wheel of a vehicle. These intense feelings can manifest themselves in reckless or aggressive conduct that can put another in direct danger of bodily harm.
The main difference between reckless driving versus aggressive driving is that reckless driving requires you to engage in unsafe behavior that could increase the risk of an accident. Whereas aggressive driving is the same as reckless driving but with the intent of endangering a person or property. Both charges can be related to the individual themselves or to the vehicle if it is in dangerous condition and should be kept off of the roads.
In Texas, reckless driving requires a person to drive a vehicle in “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” It is recognized as a misdemeanor in Texas although it can quickly become a felony if certain lines are crossed. Penalties for reckless driving can include losing your Texas driver’s license, community service, civil liability, up to 30 days in jail and up to a $200 fine or both.
Some examples of road rage considered to be reckless driving include:
- Running a redlight or stop sign
- Driving the wrong way
- Making inappropriate gestures
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Driving at a speed significantly over the limit in traffic
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Distracted driving (i.e. texting and driving)
- Street racing or drag racing
Aggressive driving is defined by the NHTSA as a “traffic offense that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” The severity of penalties for aggressive driving depends on the charge.
The examples of aggressive driving are similar to reckless driving with the main difference being the intent behind them. As mentioned, to be considered aggressive driving, the offense must have been committed with the intention to harm someone or something. Some more specific examples of road rage considered to be aggressive driving include:
- Using your car as a weapon
- Intentionally cutting off a driver
- Physically assaulting a driver
- Unsafe lane changes
- Cutting in front of another driver and slowing down
- Firing a gun in response to another driver
- Smashing another driver’s window in response to an accident
- Running a vehicle off the road
- Blocking cars who are attempting to switch lanes
- Throwing objects at other vehicles
Unlike reckless driving, aggressive driving is tried as a criminal offense with much larger penalties. If you’re facing the severe consequences of aggressive driving charges or road rage that resulted in an accident, don’t wait to hire a Houston car accident lawyer. Doing so can help protect your name and your future.
How is road rage prosecuted?
You cannot be charged with reckless driving or aggressive driving if it was simply a case of negligence. To be convicted, the state of Texas must present strong evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knowingly drove or acted in a way that a competent and careful driver would recognize as dangerous. These could include evidence such as toxicology reports, excessive speed, or a poor driving record.
As previously stated, there are no laws mentioning “road rage” but there are charges that can stem from the behavior. These charges include:
- Reckless driving
- Assault and battery
- Aggressive driving
- Vehicular assault
- Vehicular homicide
- Deadly misconduct
- Criminal mischief
- Aggravated assault
- Discharging a firearm
The punishments that follow from any one of these charges will vary depending on how severe the incident was. Punishments can range from fines, civil liabilities, and license revocation to a lifetime in prison for charges of murder.
Continue reading: The Difference Between Aggravated Assault vs Assault
Defending road rage charges
So, is road rage a criminal offense? Not exactly, but expressing road rage can lead to criminal charges that could affect your reputation, career, relationships and even child custody decisions.
At Thiessen Law Firm, we understand how terrifying it can feel to face these charges, and we aren’t afraid to take your case to court. The first thing you should do is hire Mark Thiessen, our experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who will help you create the best legal strategy to minimize the consequences of your arrest or have the charges dropped entirely.
Are you being charged with road rage in Texas?
If you’re facing a charge for aggressive driving due to road rage or any other circumstance, you’ll need a skilled defense team to represent you. Mark Thiessen, founder of Thiessen Law Firm, is an eight-time Super Lawyer and triple board-certified criminal defense lawyer. With over 100 Not Guilty verdicts, he is prepared to make another success story out of your case.
Call Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation today.
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