Vehicle Code 13210 CVC – California Road Rage Laws

Vehicle Code 13210 CVC is the California statute that enables the DMV to suspend a motorist's driver's license for engaging in road rage behaviors. The section states that “the suspension period…[for] ‘road rage' shall be six months for a first offense and one year for a second or subsequent offense.”

Road rage” is when a motorist shows aggressive or angry behavior towards other drivers or pedestrians. This behavior can include giving rude gestures, verbal insults, and physical threats. It can also include a motorist driving dangerously towards another driver to intimidate him/her.

Note that a person can challenge the DMV's decision to suspend a license for road rage. The driver can do so at either:

In addition to a license suspension, road rage can lead to the commission of serious crimes. Some examples are:

  1. reckless driving, per Vehicle Code 23103 VC,
  2. assault with a deadly weapon, per Penal Code 245a1 PC, and
  3. murder, per Penal Code 187 PC.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

angry driver experiencing a bit of road rage
“Road rage” is when a driver shows aggressive or angry behavior.

1. Can the DMV suspend a driver's license for road rage?

The DMV can suspend a motorist's drivers license for road rage, per 13210 CVC.

This suspension can be for:

  • up to six months (for a first offense), or
  • up to one year (for a second or subsequent offense).1

The DMV can decide to suspend a license in one of two ways. The first is by:

  1. finding that the driver lacks the skill to drive, and then
  2. send the motorist an “Order of Suspension.”

The second way is by:

  1. declaring the person to be a negligent operator, and
  2. send the motorist an “Order of Suspension.”

Drivers are declared a “negligent operator” if they accumulate a certain number of “points” on their driving record.

A motorist will receive points on his DMV record for such things like:

  • moving violations, or
  • criminal driving offenses.

The DMV can do the following if a person earns enough points within a 1-, 2- or 3-year period:

  • declare him a negligent operator, and
  • suspend, or even, revoke, his driving privileges.

2. Can a 13210 CVC suspension be challenged?

A driver can challenge a DMV decision to suspend his/her license for road rage.

If the DMV determined that the driver lacks the skill to drive, then:

  1. the motorist can ask for an administrative hearing, and
  2. try to prove that he/she does have the skill to drive.

If the DMV agrees, it will cancel any suspension. Note that this is referred to as the DMV's re-examination process.

If the DMV determined that the driver is a negligent operator, then:

  1. the motorist can ask for a negligent operator hearing, and
  2. show that his driving privileges should not be suspended or revoked.

A hearing officer may decide any of the following after a hearing:

  1. a license suspension gets set aside.
  2. the motorist gets placed on negligent operator probation. This means a suspension does not go into effect. It will though if the driver commits a violation or an accident.
  3. the driver gets a suspension but is granted a restricted license.
  4. a license gets suspended.

Note that a negligent operator hearing is part of the Negligent Operator Treatment System.

3. Is road rage a criminal offense in California?

It can be. Depending on the facts of a case, road rage in California can lead to criminal charges for reckless driving (VC 23103), assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245a1), and even murder (PC 187).

3.1. Reckless driving – VC 23103

Vehicle Code 23103 VC is the California statute that defines the crime of reckless driving.

A person commits this offense when he or she drives with a wanton disregard for:

  • the safety of other people, or
  • the safety of someone's property.

Experiencing road rage and driving irrationally can equate to driving with wanton disregard for safety.

Reckless driving is a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in jail.

3.2. Assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1

Penal Code 245a1 PC is the California statute that defines “assault with a deadly weapon.”

This crime occurs whenever a perpetrator attempts to:

  • injure another person, and
  • tries to do this with either a deadly weapon or force likely to cause great bodily injury.

As to road rage, a California court has found that:

  • a car can be a “deadly weapon,” when
  • the vehicle is used in an attempt to run someone down.2

3.3. Murder – PC 187

Penal Code 187 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of "murder."

This section makes it a crime for a person to:

  1. commit the unlawful killing of a human being, and
  2. do so with malice aforethought.

"Malice aforethought" means the killer:

  • acts with wanton disregard for human life, or
  • does an act that involves a high degree of probability that it will result in death.

There are road rage cases where a driver does act with malice aforethought and ends up killing someone.

For additional help...

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For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

For similar crimes in Nevada, please see our article on: “Nevada's Road Rage Laws.”

Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 13210 VC.

  2. People v. Aguilar (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1023.

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