Road Rage Assault and the law
What is Road Rage?
I often have clients who come to me with ‘road rage’ cases. These are cases where an altercation involving motor vehicles ends up in one or both parties losing their temper and as a result a criminal offence may be committed.
Evidence in Road Rage cases
Road rage offences are notoriously complicated to deal with and evidence will often come from a variety of sources. Often the alleged offence will have taken place over a stretch of road. There may or may not be video evidence such as CCTV or dash-cam footage, and there is often also eye witness evidence. Physical evidence from the scene and the vehicles can be used and Expert evidence such as an accident reconstruction expert can be adduced.
What can initially look like a strong prosecution case can often fall apart under close examination and expert legal analysis. For example, I recently represented a gentleman accused GBH and dangerous driving where he was accused of running over another motorist in a dispute over a parking space. Firstly, the defence were able to commission a specialist doctor to examine the medical reports in the case and conclude that the injuries to the complainant’s leg were not sufficient to amount to ‘grievous’ bodily harm. Next the defence were able to conduct a scene reconstruction in order to show that the witnesses in the case (members of the complainant’s family) could not possibly have seen the incident from the areas where they were within the car and the multi storey car park. As a result of the gathering of the evidence we were able to present this to the CPS and negotiated the GBH charge being dropped.
What are Road Rage Criminal Offences?
There is no textbook Road Rage case as the circumstances in each case are different, as are the types of offence that may be committed. I give some examples below.
Where a person is injured the offences that may be committed vary depending upon the level of injury inflicted and the intent of the defendant. If it is alleged that the defendant intended to injure the party or was reckless as to whether injury was caused the prosecution can allege that a straightforward assault has taken place. Assaults vary in seriousness, including, from most serious to least:
- Assault occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm
- Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm
- Common Assault
If the driving was obviously designed to cause injury, but as a matter of luck injury was not caused, the prosecution may charge the matter as an ‘attempt’ to commit one of the above offences.
Alternatively, the prosecution may choose to prosecute using specialist road traffic offences such as, from most serious to least:
- Causing death by dangerous driving
- Causing serious injury by dangerous driving
- Causing serious injury by careless driving
Where no death or serious injury takes place the prosecution may choose to merely charge offences of ‘driving badly’ these include Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving
How can your lawyer help you in Road Rage cases?
Road rage cases are a unique breed. They are both offences against the person and Road Traffic cases. It is important that you select a lawyer who is a specialist in both. Your lawyer will want to conduct an analysis of the prosecution evidence and gather effective evidence for the defence. Make sure that your lawyer has an excellent ‘black book’ of the best expert witnesses for different types of situations and that they have the forensic and courtroom skills to damage the prosecution case should the matter proceed to trial.
How can expert evidence help you in Road Rage cases?
Expert evidence is defined as evidence which provide the Court with information which is likely to be outside the experience and the knowledge of a judge or jury (see the Criminal Practice Direction V Evidence 19A Expert Evidence).
An expert witness can give evidence and provide a court with their opinion on any admissible matter where expertise is required as long as they are suitably qualified.
In road rage cases I have found that expert evidence of the following sort is very useful:
- Expert medical evidence to give opinion on levels of injury and whether certain injuries can be caused by certain allegations
- Scene reconstruction expertise to give evidence regarding whether the scene of an accident/incident tallies up with what the witnesses say happened
- Expert vehicular damage evidence- does the damage to the vehicles in a case match up with what the witnesses say happened
- CCTV/dashcam analysis- experts can enhance, slow down and analyse video evidence which can often show a very different picture to that which is initially presented
This list is of course non exhaustive and expertise can be called in many different situations depending upon the facts of the case.
Road Rage defences
Road rage cases often require a specific intent, for example, a case involving assault occasioning actual bodily harm will require that the defendant intended to cause the victim harm or at the least was reckless that harm was caused. If the defence are able to cause the Court to have reasonable doubt about this, then the defendant will be Not Guilty. This will depend upon crucial defence evidence including evidence from the defendant him/herself in respect of their state of mind at the time.
Often road rage cases hinge on the question of who the aggressor was; in offences against the person if the defendant was acting in lawful self-defence then the offence cannot be made out. For example, I recently represented a gentleman who was accused of driving off, after hitting the complainant with his car and then carrying the complainant on his car bonnet for some way. The defendant was able to argue that he was acting in self-defence due to the fact that the complainant initially attacked him and he anticipated that the attack would continue unless he left the scene.
Often the case will turn on a straightforward issue as to fact: the prosecution witnesses will say that one thing happened but the defence will say that something different happened. In those circumstances, it is important to collect and marshal as much evidence as possible that can both subjectively and objectively support the defence case. This includes expert evidence and the collection of independent evidence that the prosecution may not have collected. For example, in a case last year I represented a bus driver accused of ramming another motorist off the road. The prosecution had collected poor CCTV from the Council only showing an obscured rear view of the incident from some distance. I was able to find CCTV security footage from a local shop which captured the immediate incident and showed the complainant ‘brake checking’ the bus which led to the incident. The defendant was acquitted of the charge in short order.
If you are accused of a road rage offence, it is vital that you have the best available representation to guide you through what is undoubtedly a tricky area of law. Quentin Hunt is a specialist criminal Barrister who accepts instructions directly from members of the public. He is known to be an expert in road traffic law and offences against the person and has an enviable record in defending Road Rage cases. You may contact Quentin for a no obligation conversation about any case.