A mere accusation can lead to a felony.
You’re driving down the road when someone cuts you off. You don’t react, except to get in the next lane and go around them. Now the other man is behind you honking his horn, waving his arms and screaming out the window that you need to pull over. You start to feel uneasy. You don’t know what this person is going to do next. Do you reach into your center console to pull your firearm to warn him that you have a gun and to leave you alone? Do you get it ready in case he gets out of his vehicle to attack you?
Having handled many road rage cases, I can tell you, this situation results in good people getting themselves into trouble every day. Displaying a firearm in road rage, even when your intentions are good, can easily end in arrest. Texas law generally treats the display of a firearm in self-defense as a use of “force.” You can lawfully use “force” in self-defense when and to the degree you reasonably believe it is immediately necessary to protect against someone else’s unlawful force against you. Nevertheless, when it comes to road rage, we typically see officers arrest the person with a gun in their vehicle. Their reasoning? You could have driven away from the situation rather than pulling out a weapon, so your use of force was not immediately necessary.
There are three typical charges that result from pulling a firearm in a road rage incident: Aggravated assault, deadly conduct, and disorderly conduct.
- Aggravated assault is a Second-Degree felony and carries a range of punishment of 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Deadly conduct is a Third-Degree felony or Class A misdemeanor (depending on the circumstances) and is punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine (if charged as a felony); or up to 1 year in the county jail and up to a $4,000 fine (if charged as a misdemeanor).
- Disorderly conduct is a Class B misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 180 days in county jail and up to a $2,000 fine.
If you find yourself in a road rage situation, the best thing to do is take a deep breath and drive away, if possible. A jury always looks for evidence of avoidance. Now, if it is a situation where the other person has blocked you with their vehicle and is walking towards you with a weapon, then you would more than likely be justified in pulling a gun to defend yourself. It is essential to remember that self-dense is just that; it is a defense. It is not a bar to being arrested or dragged through the court system. Pulling a gun, even if it is just to warn or deter the other person, should always be a last resort. An important note: it does not matter whether the gun is loaded or not.
If you have been arrested for a situation resulting from a road rage incident, it is vital you hire a competent attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of these types of situations.
Author: Leslie Rebescher
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website does not contain legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Every case is different, and this material is not a substitute for, and does not replace the advice or representation of, a licensed attorney.