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.

Aggravated Assault for Single Punch to the Face

Some people have the capability to do a lot of damage with a single blow and those who do may face aggravated assault following a solitary punch to the face of another person.

Aggravated assault

Punch to the Face

Photo by: Alex Southward

If a person causes a serious injury to another through the use of violence, they can face aggravated assault charges, even if the violent act was brief. Utah Code 76-5-103 states that “Aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct that is:

(i) an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;

(ii) a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or

(iii) an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and

(b) that includes the use of: [weapons, choking, or]

(iii) other means or force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury.”

Aggravated assault is a third degree felony unless serious bodily injury or lack of consciousness results; at which case it becomes a second degree felony.

Serious bodily injury

When punches are thrown, there often isn’t a worry for serious bodily injury to result. This does not mean throwing punch will not have devastating results however. Most people underestimate the damage that a single blow can cause. Beyond the obvious headache that will ensue for the victim, a solitary punch to the face can cause:

• A broken nose or other facial fractures;

• Shattered teeth,

• Detached retina;

• Concussion;

• Brain hemorrhage; and even

• Death.

Some serious injuries from a solitary punch result from the act itself while other injuries transpire from the individual falling after the blow.

One punch to the face could be fatal

Death from a single punch isn’t as uncommon as one might think. There have been multiple reports in the news of a single punch to the face proving fatal. In late April, a California man visiting Las Vegas for his brother’s wedding was confronted by an individual who asked what he was looking at before delivering a single sucker punch to the face. The 45 year old father of 5 died 4 days later. One week prior to that, an Illinois teen was killed after being punched one time in the face at a party. These are just a couple of the numerous cases of death from a single punch to the face. If a single punch to the face results in death, that individual will then have to face murder charges.

Legal counsel

Never underestimate the consequences of a single blow. For those who are facing criminal charges following an assault to another person or in the case of an unexpected death following a fist fight, contact a criminal defense attorney right away to discuss what steps to take during the legal process.

Murder and Desecration of a Dead Human Body

A Utah man was arrested over the weekend on suspicion of murder and also for desecration of a dead human body.

Beaten to death

Desecration of a Dead Human Body

Photo by: r. nial bradshaw

34 year old Kammy Edmunds, mother of two, was found battered and deceased in the bathroom of her Mt. Pleasant home Saturday morning and her fiancée has been arrested in connection with her death. Initially, 35 year old Anthony Jeffery Christensen told police Edmunds had supposedly died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash but after further investigation, police determined she had been beaten to death. Christensen was booked as the sole suspect in the case.

“The car accident”

The fabricated story of the vehicle crash allegedly came about from Christensen attempting to blame Edmunds fatal injuries on a car crash that happened sometime in the late evening or early morning hours after he passed out drunk. In support of his story, Christensen’s late fiancée’s vehicle was found at the bottom of an embankment with her blood on the interior of the vehicle. Although the tale could have made sense to an untrained eye, investigators as well as a medical examiner concluded that the drive off the embankment would not have killed Edmunds. Additionally, her injuries consisted of multiple blows to the head which was not consistent with a car crash. Lastly, there was evidence that Edmunds body had been moved through the house post-mortem; all signs pointing to her fiancée as a her murderer.

Desecration of a dead human body

Photo by: dave Nakayama

Photo by: Dave Nakayama

Christensen’s efforts to cover up the real story of what happened to Kammy Edmunds didn’t pan out, and he was booked into Sanpete County jail on murder charges. Had he not gone through the trouble of producing a vehicle crash story and rearranging the murder scene, his charges would have stopped there. Since he dragged the body through the house and attempted to make it look like an accident, he is also facing charges for obstruction of justice and desecration of a dead human body. Utah Code 76-9-704 states “A person is guilty of abuse or desecration of a dead human body if the person intentionally and unlawfully:

(a) fails to report the finding of a dead human body to a local law enforcement agency;

(b) disturbs, moves, removes, conceals, or destroys a dead human body or any part of it;

(c) disinters a buried or otherwise interred dead human body, without authority of a court order;

(d) dismembers a dead human body to any extent, or damages or detaches any part or portion of a dead human body; ( . . . )

Failure to report finding a body is a class B misdemeanor, while all other types of desecration of a dead human body are punishable as a third degree felony.

Covering his tracks

Desecration of a dead human body can be seen as either a complete lack of respect for the dead or in this case, perhaps a panicked attempt to hide a grievous mistake. Christensen does not have a history that paints him out as one who would enjoy maliciously desecrating a body. He does have a history of acting out in anger though. According to legal information from two other states, Christensen had a history of domestic violence and had obviously not received enough help in controlling his angry outbursts of violence, even after multiple charges of domestic battery over several years.

Get help now

Photo by: Saurabh Vyas

Photo by: Saurabh Vyas

Utah has many programs and classes available to help those who struggle with anger and violence; In fact, these programs are often court ordered when charges of domestic violence are present. It is unclear whether or not Christensen had attended any classes or programs in his past, whether voluntarily or not. Now hopefully he can get the help he needs to control his anger by attending different behavioral classes during his time in prison. His life and the life of Kammy Edmunds and her family are forever changed and classes at this point will do little to help except to give Christensen understanding in his actions. For those who are facing charges of domestic violence, contact a criminal defense attorney and be sure to inquire about anger management classes. Anyone looking for help in controlling anger before it amounts to criminal charges such as murder or desecration of a dead human body, contact your local health department.