Garza Law Firm: Road Rage
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You may want to think twice before wielding a weapon in a road rage incident. If you choose to display a weapon in a common road rage scenario, you could potentially face criminal charges for Aggravated Assault and Reckless Endangerment.
First, you may face an Aggravated Assault charge because, in this context, the State of Tennessee would only need to prove that you “intentionally or knowingly” caused another person to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury with the use or display of a deadly weapon. Second, you could face a Reckless Endangerment charge because utilizing a weapon in a road rage incident falls within the definition of Reckless Endangerment under Tennessee law, which is reckless “conduct that places or may place another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
It must also be noted that the use of a weapon in the context of an Aggravated Assault automatically bumps that charge up to a Class C Felony. Similarly, Reckless Endangerment that is committed with a deadly weapon is likewise augmented but only to a Class E Felony. The mere display of a weapon significantly increases the penalties for road rage incidents. Under Tennessee law, a Class E Felony carries a possible sentence of 1-6 years in prison and fines up to $3,000, while a Class C Felony carries a possible sentence of 3 to 15 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.
Effective July 1st, 2022, the Tennessee legislature increased the penalties of an Aggravated Assault conviction if the incident involved discharging a firearm from within a motor vehicle. This new change was designed to combat a growing number of road rage incidents in Tennessee. Thus, if you commit an Aggravated Assault by firing a weapon from within a motor vehicle, you will be punished one classification higher by default. Moreover, if you are prosecuted for Reckless Endangerment that involved discharging a weapon from within a motor vehicle, you will potentially face a Class C Felony instead of a Class E.
According to a 2021 study completed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Tennessee ranked fifth in the nation for road rage shootings. The study found that five people were killed and 15 people were injured in shootings induced by road rage in 2021. This study caught the attention of the Tennessee Legislature and culminated in the creation of the new crime of Aggravated Reckless Driving to combat the growing number of road rage incidents. This new crime is punishable as a Class A Misdemeanor offense under Tennessee Law and carries the following penalties: a sentence of up to 11 months, 29 days in jail; a probationary period; a fine of up to $5,000; court costs; and points assessed to your Tennessee driving history.
Tennessee is not an outlier when it comes to unprecedented road rage shootings across the country. That same study completed by Everytown for Gun Safety in 2021 concluded that more than 500 people across the United States were either killed or wounded in road rage shootings that year. With this in mind, lawmakers are consistently looking for ways to put an end to or at least mitigate road rage by increasing criminal penalties or by enacting gun control legislation. Just know that Tennessee is becoming increasingly more cognizant of the dangers of road rage in general, and that it is something that will simply not be ignored.
Yes, road rage is something that is fairly common and difficult to control. There are plenty of instances where we have all wanted to voice our frustrations and maybe act impulsively when we witness poor or aggressive driving from other individuals on the road. Becoming educated on the possible consequences of road rage is the first and perhaps most vital step in avoiding road rage altogether. Hiring private counsel to represent you on criminal charges induced by road rage can very well be in excess of $10,000.
In the interest of avoiding unnecessary harm and expense, think twice before you retaliate in a road rage scenario. However, should you find yourself in need of a Criminal Defense Attorney, please contact the Garza Law Firm for help.
550 W. Main Street, Suite 340 | Knoxville, TN 37902 | 865-540-8300