According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle “in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property”. Aggressive driving is usually punishable according to a state’s reckless driving statutes.
Not all states have aggressive driving laws. However, in the states that do enforce aggressive driving laws, aggressive driving is sometimes considered to be a serious criminal offense rather than a minor traffic infraction.
Unlike many other states, California’s aggressive driving law does make aggressive driving a criminal offense. In California aggressive driving is treated as an automobile crime. This means that aggressive driving charges may lead to criminal penalties and can potentially remain permanently on one’s criminal record.
When determining whether a person was driving aggressively or not, California courts will consider several factors, such as:
- The speed that the driver was traveling at
- Whether the driver’s actions endangered other drivers
- Dangerous maneuvers such as swerving or tailgating
In general, the California statute defines reckless driving as “a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other persons or property”. Thus, a court will also have to make a determination as to whether the offending driver deliberately chose to disregard driving safety measures.
In California, aggressive driving is initially considered to be a misdemeanor crime. According to California vehicle codes, being convicted of aggressive driving will result in the following penalties:
- Imprisonment for up to 90 days
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Possible increases in automobile insurance rates, depending on the degree of the conviction
- Other consequences such as loss of driving privileges and/or having one’s vehicle impounded
In addition, California driving laws also include charges for “extreme aggressive driving”, which are serious auto crimes. For example, the state of California sometimes classifies vehicles as deadly weapons. Thus, the driver may be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon if the vehicle was used to purposely injure another driver or a pedestrian.
Assault with a deadly weapon may be considered to be a felony and may result in more severe penalties such as:
- Fines not to exceed $10,000
- Incarceration in a prison facility for up to 4 years
Also, repeat aggressive driving offenses will also result in increasingly severe penalties with each offense.
Aggressive driving charges in the state of California can lead to serious legal consequences. If you are facing charges for aggressive driving, you have the right to a criminal attorney. Your lawyer will be able to advise you at every important phase of the process. An experienced California attorney may be able to help you obtain a reduced sentence, or they can contend for less serious charges.