As one of the largest cities in the nation, many Houstonians have to deal with stressful traffic conditions that leave many people on edge. Unfortunately, traffic-related stress results in a high number of road rage incidents in Houston. In fact, according to some estimates, Houston leads the nation in road rage. But how is road rage charged under Texas law? What happens if a person is suspected of being involved in a road rage incident?
Under Texas law, there is no charge known as road rage. Dangerous, violent or threatening behavior that takes place during a traffic confrontation and is considered to be road rage could meet the definition one of many criminal law violations. Among the most common charges in road rage incidents are reckless driving and aggravated assault.
Under Texas Transportation Code 545.401, reckless driving is committed if a person drives a vehicle in “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” But as many Texas courts have explained, reckless driving is more than just bad, disrespectful or even unsafe driving. In a road rage incident, a driver could be charged with reckless driving by intentionally driving in a highly unsafe manner that puts other drivers at risk. Reckless driving is punishable by a fine not to exceed $200 and/or confinement in the county jail for up to 30 days.
Depending on the facts and the severity of the incident, a road rage incident could also be charged as aggravated assault. Under Texas law, there are many ways that aggravated assault can be committed. But in the context of a road rage incident, aggravated assault could be charged where a person exhibits or uses a deadly weapon (like a firearm) or commits an assault that results in serious bodily injury.
In Houston, road rage incidents sometimes escalate to the point where a person could face a charge of aggravated assault. Pointing a firearm, discharging a firearm or using a car itself as a weapon could lead to a charge of aggravated assault after a road rage incident. In Texas, aggravated assault is a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
What should I do if I am suspected of road rage?
If you are suspected of being involved in a road rage incident in Houston, it is very important that you understand your rights. Whatever the criminal charge you are being investigated for, you always have an absolute right to remain silent and most criminal defense attorneys strongly advise that you exercise this right if you ever are suspected of any crime, including a road rage-related incident.
After a report of a road rage incident, the police will attempt to take a statement from your, either at the scene or sometime after the alleged incident (if you were not detained). The bottom line is that if the police have enough evidence to charge you with a criminal offense, there is nothing that you can say to stop them from doing so. On the other hand, if the police lack evidence to charge you with a crime (for example, if they are unable to identify who the driver of the vehicle was), by speaking to the police, you risk providing them the evidence that was needed to charge you with a crime.
The fact that you chose to remain silent while being questioned by the police for an offense like aggravated assault or reckless driving is a fact that can never be used against you. Under the laws of Texas and the United States, the right to remain silent is so strong that the fact that you refused to speak to the police cannot even be mentioned in a criminal trial. On the other hand, anything you say can be used against you and it is impossible to predict how your statement could be used as evidence of your guilt later on.
What should I do if I am arrested after a road rage incident?
If you are arrested for an offense arising out of a road rage incident, do not panic. Exercise your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. If you are taken to jail on a charge of aggravated assault or reckless driving, a judge will set your bond and you will be released after posing your bond. You will also be issued a court date to appear in the court that will handle your case. In the Houston area, criminal cases take 6 months or more to resolve themselves so you should think about the process like a marathon rather than a sprint.
It is very important to choose the right attorney to handle a road rage incident. Due to the severity of some road rage incidents, some prosecutors take a hard stance against anyone suspected of being involved in a road rage incident. But it is possible to successfully put a road rage incident behind you.
If you have been arrested following a road rage incident, or are under investigation, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.