Is Road Rage a Criminal Offense?
Have you ever been stuck in rush hour, inching forward like a snail in molasses? Suddenly, someone cuts you off, almost causing a crash. Your heart races and your anger boils as you realize you avoided a crash by the thinnest of margins. You might even shout or gesture wildly. If so, you’ve just experienced road rage.
This isn’t just a personal annoyance. Road rage is a serious issue across the US, with 92% of drivers interviewed by The Zebra in 2023 witnessing an act of road rage in the past year. But is road rage a criminal offense? The answer depends on what happens during the incident.
What Is Road Rage?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle or the result of an incident that occurred on a roadway. Road rage also occurs when a driver commits dangerous traffic offenses to endanger others or their property. This includes using a vehicle to ram another car, physically fighting with another driver on the side of the road, or using a weapon to threaten or cause harm.
Think of road rage as aggressive or violent behavior behind the wheel, often triggered by another driver’s actions. Stress, anger, frustration, and fatigue are just some factors that can lead to road rage.
Is Road Rage a Crime?
While road rage isn’t a specific crime in most states, including New Mexico, your actions during a heated moment can land you serious legal trouble. New Mexico takes road rage seriously, addressing it with two specific laws.
Reckless driving is defined as driving any vehicle carelessly and heedlessly in willful disregard for the rights or safety of others. It also involves driving without due caution at a speed or in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property.
This is defined as the operation of a motor vehicle in a careless, inattentive, or imprudent manner, without regard for traffic, weather, and road conditions.
Examples of Reckless and Careless Behaviors
Some common examples of reckless and careless driving include the following:
- Tailgating—Following too closely behind another car, intimidating the driver.
- Aggressive lane changes—Cutting off other drivers without signaling or leaving enough space.
- Speeding—Exceeding the speed limit significantly and putting everyone around you at risk.
- Yelling and making threats—Using verbal abuse or gestures to intimidate other drivers.
- Throwing objects—This is considered assault and can lead to serious charges.
- Physical altercations—Any attempt to harm another person, including hitting or shoving.
It’s important to note that even if you don’t intend to commit a crime, your actions could still be deemed criminal and result in penalties.
Penalties for Road Rage in New Mexico
Road rage may seem like a common and minor issue, but its consequences could seriously impact your life. While road rage is not a distinct crime in New Mexico, your behavior during a heated moment on the road could lead to significant charges and penalties. The potential penalties for road rage-related offenses depend on the charge.
- Reckless Driving. This misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Assault. If you threw an object at another car and injured the other driver, you could face misdemeanor or felony assault charges, depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted. You face up to 6 months and a $500 maximum fine for a misdemeanor. For a felony, you face 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
- Property Damage. Did your anger cause damage to another vehicle? Be prepared for another misdemeanor charge, with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine waiting for you.
Other penalties could be a suspension or revocation of your license, probation, or required payments to the other driver for damages and injuries. The severity of your charges depends on your conduct during the road rage incident. For instance, throwing something could be considered battery, while causing significant damage to another car could be property damage. With your rights and freedom at risk, seeking legal counsel as soon as possible is important.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Road Rage Charge?
A skilled road rage lawyer can help you understand your charges and rights and defend you in court. Let’s look at some reasons why you might need a lawyer for a road rage charge.
- The charges against you could be serious. Road rage can lead to misdemeanor and felony charges that involve significant consequences—including jail time, fines, and losing your driver’s license.
- The evidence against you may be complex. Law enforcement may have video evidence, witness statements, or other evidence that can be used against you. An attorney can help you understand the evidence and develop an effective defense strategy.
- You need someone to protect your rights. You have certain rights as a defendant in a criminal case. An attorney can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.
- An attorney can help negotiate a lesser charge. If the evidence against you is strong, an attorney can work to negotiate a plea bargain that reduces the charges.
- An attorney can help you avoid jail time. If you are convicted of a road rage offense, an attorney can help you avoid jail time or get a shorter sentence.
If you are facing a road rage-related charge, you could potentially be facing jail time. With your freedom on the line, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer to discuss your options.
Need Help with Your Road Rage Case? Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices
Road rage is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences. If you have been charged with a crime related to road rage, it is crucial to seek legal assistance immediately. The New Mexico Criminal Law Offices provide aggressive legal representation while protecting your rights. Our team of skilled criminal defense lawyers, with over two decades of experience defending clients against various criminal convictions, will vigorously fight for your rights, no matter the circumstances. Contact our office today for a free consultation.