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  • How Road Rage Incidents Can Lead to Criminal Charges

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    New Mexico experiences its fair share of road rage. In fact, a report by Everytown Research and Policy ranked New Mexico number one in road rage shootings.

    Thousands of drivers interact with other motorists on highways each day. In a 2019 survey, about eighty percent of drivers reported at least one experience involving an aggressive driver.

    Road rage incident criminal charges

    Like other criminal incidents, the circumstances of a road rage situation can appear one way to responding officers but be quite different in actuality. False arrests and unwarranted charges can arise in road rage cases just as they can in other scenarios involving law enforcement.

    Therefore, if you are facing charges stemming from a road rage incident, you should contact a defense lawyer at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

    Does New Mexico Have Road Rage Charges?

    Road rage is aggressive or violent behavior exhibited by someone driving a motor vehicle. Common examples of road rage include:

    • Tailgating,
    • Making obscene gestures at other drivers,
    • Brake checking other vehicles,
    • Threatening other drivers with physical violence, 
    • Refusing to let vehicles pass, and
    • Trying to swerve into other drivers.

    New Mexico does not explicitly outline road rage as a criminal offense. Instead, road ragers can face reckless driving charges. In New Mexico, a person commits reckless driving when they operate a vehicle:

    • Carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of others; or
    • Without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner to endanger or be likely to endanger a person or property.

    Many behaviors associated with road rage fit the definition of reckless driving. 

    What Is the Difference Between Aggressive Driving and Road Rage?

    New Mexico does not define road rage or aggressive driving as traffic offenses. Aggressive driving can precipitate or accompany an incident of road rage. Additionally, it may warrant reckless driving charges depending on the circumstances of the case.

    Other Types of Criminal Charges Road Rage Incidents Can Lead to

    Because no road rage statute exists, prosecutors must use other criminal offenses to seek jail time for someone accused of road rage. Below, we describe some criminal offenses that may arise during a road rage incident.

    Assault and Battery Charges

    Battery is the unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to another person when done in a rude, insolent, or angry manner. If a person’s road rage results in them following another driver until they get out of their vehicle and then pokes them in the chest rudely, they could face charges for battery.

    Battery is considered a petty misdemeanor in New Mexico. A petty misdemeanor in New Mexico carries the potential of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. 

    Assault, on the other hand, occurs when a person:

    • Attempts to commit battery upon the person of another;
    • Commits any unlawful act, threat, or menacing conduct that causes another person to reasonably believe they are in danger of an immediate battery; or
    • Uses insulting language toward another, impugning their honor, delicacy, or reputation.

    A driver who tries to commit battery on another driver but fails has committed an assault. Assaulting someone under road rage is considered a petty misdemeanor.

    Aggravated Battery

    Aggravated battery is defined as the unlawful touching or application of force to the person of another with intent to injure that person or a third party. Whether an aggravated battery charge is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the type of injury inflicted on the victim.

    Aggravated battery is a misdemeanor when the victim’s injury is not likely to cause death or great bodily harm but does cause painful temporary disfigurement or temporary loss or impairment of bodily functions.

    A misdemeanor in New Mexico carries the potential of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, aggravated battery is a third-degree felony when the accused inflicts great bodily harm, uses a deadly weapon, or acts in a manner whereby great bodily harm or death can be inflicted. A third-degree felony carries the potential of up to three years in prison and up to $5,000.

    The accused’s state of mind is the primary factor used to determine whether to file battery or aggravated battery charges. Someone who applies force intending to cause an injury commits aggravated battery. A person automatically commits aggravated battery if they injure someone with a deadly weapon, like a firearm.

    For example, if a road rager chases a victim down, exits their vehicle, and fires a handgun at the victim, causing them great bodily injury, the road rager has committed aggravated battery.

    Aggravated Assault

    Aggravated assault in New Mexico occurs when someone:

    • Unlawfully assaults or strikes at another person with a deadly weapon;
    • Commits assault by threatening or menacing another while wearing a mask, hood, robe, or other covering upon the face, head, or body, or while disguised in any manner to conceal their identity; or
    • Willfully and intentionally assaults another person with intent to commit a felony.

    Simply, an aggravated assault occurs when someone unsuccessfully attempts an aggravated battery. For example, a driver who follows the alleged victim until they both exit their vehicles attempts to shoot their handgun at the victim but misses and hits the ground. In that scenario, the driver is guilty of aggravated assault.

    New Mexico considers aggravated assault a fourth-degree felony. A fourth-degree felony carries the potential of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

    Want to Know How You Can Avoid Charges in a Road Rage Case? Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices Today

    Our New Mexico Criminal Law Offices team has over two decades of combined experience defending clients against criminal convictions. Our attorneys focus solely on criminal defense cases, dedicating all our time to representing those facing criminal accusations. We will not make assumptions about your case before we hear your side of the story. 

    You cannot afford to risk your freedom and your family’s future on an inexperienced attorney. Let one of our experienced criminal lawyers fight for you. Contact our office today so an attorney can start reviewing your case.