Aggressive Driving Versus Road Rage

Many drivers are guilty of showing hostility to other drivers occasionally but when does aggressive driving escalate to road rage, and what difference does it make legally?

Utah drivers

Photo by: State Farm

Driving can be a stressful event when dealing with other drivers on the road that don’t always make the best decisions. Although bad drivers are literally everywhere, residents of the Beehive State seem to think that the majority of horrible drivers call Utah home. Many Utah drivers will encounter (or cause) at least one incident a day that shows inexperience, poor judgement, disregard for other drivers, or distraction on the road. When these events occur it can be upsetting and how drivers handle their annoyance or anger towards other drivers could make the difference between whether or not they face criminal charges.

Four vehicles – one life lost

Early last month, hundreds of vehicles heading north towards St. George, Utah on I-15 remained at a standstill for several hours, after authorities processed the scene of a road rage incident that claimed the life of innocent driver on the opposite side of the freeway. There is no information on what caused the road rage, but fellow drivers reported three vehicles that were headed southbound on I-15 were being driven aggressively when things quickly escalated. In an attempt to pass a car on the inside shoulder, one of the drivers involved lost control and struck a northbound vehicle, killing 69 year old Michael Prinaris of Henderson, Nevada instantly.

Aggressive driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” They state that an aggressive driver may display the following behaviors:

• “Following too closely,
• Driving at excessive speeds,
• Weaving through traffic, and
• Running red lights and signs, among other acts”.

Road rage

Photo by: Mike Kline

The NHTSA states, “aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder. ( . . . ) Road rage is the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.” The turning point between aggressive driving and road rage is someone can drive aggressively, possibly putting others on the road in danger while road rage is deliberate actions intended to do harm to another driver.

Aggressive driving a.k.a reckless driving

According to the NHTSA “an important distinction is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation, while road rage, aside from the yelling and gesticulating, is a criminal offence.” While it is true that more serious criminal consequences can occur from committing acts of road rage, the state of Utah actually punishes aggressive drivers as well. Utah Code 41-6a-528 defines reckless driving as when a person operating a vehicle does so “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or while committing three or more moving traffic violations ( . . . ) [within]three miles of less in total distance.” Utah’s definition of reckless driving sounds a lot like what can occur during aggressive driving and that can result in class B misdemeanor charges.

Misdemeanor charges for road rage

Road rage is punishable by whatever criminal act a person performed because they were angry at another driver. Beyond reckless driving charges, road rage can also produce charges of:

• Misdemeanor assault if one driver physically assaulted the other driver;
• Threat of violence; also a misdemeanor charge;
• Possession of deadly weapon (vehicle) with criminal intent, a class A misdemeanor.

Felony road rage charges

Photo by:Beau Giles

Unfortunately for many cases, Road rage can also result in felony charges such as:

• Aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, a third degree felony;
• Manslaughter, a second degree felony; or even
• Aggravated murder, a first degree felony.

Anyone facing charges related to an aggressive driving or road rage incident should seek the help of an attorney immediately.

Shots Fired During Domestic Dispute at Southern Utah Home

An early morning domestic dispute at a southern Utah home ended in shots being fired and the SWAT team being dispatched.

Discharge of a weapon

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff's Office

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Over three hours before sunrise on Sunday morning, residents of the quiet Tonaquint Terrace neighborhood in Southern Utah were awakened to the sound of gunshots coming from the home of John Christian Cole. Within minutes, the SWAT team had Cole’s house surround and nearly five hours after law enforcement was called, Cole was arrested without further incident.

Escalated marital spat

Investigators have determined that Cole was quarrelling with his wife when their domestic disputed escalated and he discharged a firearm. No one was reported to be seriously injured, including the couple’s two children who were also inside the residence at the time of the shooting. Among his charges however was listed a domestic violence simple assault, so it is assumed there might have been a minor physical altercation before or after Cole fired those shots in his home.

Felony charges following domestic dispute

Domestic Dispute

Photo by: madstreetz

According to the Washington County Sherriff’s Office bookings report, Cole was charged with simple assault; felony discharge of a weapon; possession of marijuana; and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child which were deemed aggravated since a dangerous weapon was used. Cole faces two misdemeanor charges as well as three third degree felonies which can each carry a five year prison sentences.

Anger management and proper storage of firearms

As with most arguments between spouses, things have the potential to intensify rapidly and it is always wise to have a strategy in place to allow each individual the time and space needed to regain a cool head; this is especially true when children are present. Additionally, properly storing firearms out of direct reach, unloaded, and under lock and key may deter any rash decisions to include said firearms in a domestic dispute. For those seeking counsel following poor decisions during a domestic dispute, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling domestic violence cases.

Exercising the Right to Protest in Utah without Breaking the Law

The right to protest is one that residents in Utah and throughout the country have been exercising a great deal lately, and it is important for protesters to know how to exercise that right without breaking the law.

Right to protest

Right to Protest

Photo by: Jean-Philippe Bourque

Within a little over a week, Americans have participated in three different events where citizens were exercising their right to protest.

• January 20th, 2017. Inauguration Day “anti-Trump” protests began peacefully yet ended in over 200 protesters being arrested and several police officers being injured. Additionally, glass store fronts were smashed and a limo was set on fire. The damage by the protesters exceeded 100 thousand dollars.

• January 21st, 2017. Women’s March on Washington. With nearly half a million citizens supporting the cause of women’s rights and exercising their right to protest, there was not a single arrest made during that demonstration.

• January 27th, 2017. March for Life. A protest that like the other demonstrations, also brought in hundreds of thousands of individuals exercising their right to protest, ended with less than ten arrests; those arrests made were from individuals opposing the protest.

These three different events where citizens used their right to free speech to rally together on behalf of a cause all began legally, but only one of the demonstrations ended in mass arrests, property damage, and injuries.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment specifically mentions the word “peaceably” regarding the right to protest. It does not excuse violence, property damage, or other dangerous behavior.

Rules of protesting

Photo by: Yannick Gingras

Photo by: Yannick Gingras

All citizens should practice their right to protest and are protected while exercising that right, but there are rules associated with all public behavior. Not only are demonstrators to refrain from protesting on private property without permission or a permit, they must abide by certain restraints regarding time and location. Additionally, if a protester demonstrates their cause while assaulting others, damaging property, or inciting a riot, they are subject to criminal penalties. Those who face charges following a protest are encouraged to seek legal counsel.