Vehicle Code 23110 VC is the California statute that defines the crime of throwing an object at a motor vehicle. People commit this offense if they throw any substance at a vehicle or any occupant in a vehicle while on a highway. Depending on the facts of the case, a violation of this law could lead to felony charges punishable by up to three years in state prison.
The language of VC 23110 reads that:
(a) Any person who throws any substance at a vehicle or any occupant thereof on a highway is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Any person who with intent to do great bodily injury maliciously and willfully throws or projects any rock, brick, bottle, metal or other missile, or projects any other substance capable of doing serious bodily harm at such vehicle or occupant thereof is guilty of a felony and upon conviction shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison.
- throwing an empty beer bottle at a moving vehicle.
- dumping a bucket of water off a bridge and aiming the liquid at moving traffic.
- hurling a brick at a moving truck with the intent to injure the truck’s driver.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help defendants contest charges under this statute. A few common defenses include attorneys showing that:
- there was an accident,
- the accused did not intend to cause great bodily injury, and/or
- law enforcement violated one of the accused’s constitutional rights.
A prosecutor can charge a violation of California Vehicle Code 23110 VC as either a misdemeanor offense or a felony, depending on the facts of the case.
Misdemeanor violations are punishable by custody in county jail for up to six months. Felony violations, though, carry a maximum penalty of up to three years in state prison.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. Is it a crime to throw an object at a motor vehicle?
- 2. Are there common defenses to Vehicle Code 23110 charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. Is it a crime to throw an object at a motor vehicle?
VC 23110 makes throwing objects and throwing substances at vehicles either a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
To successfully convict a person of a misdemeanor, a prosecutor must prove the following:
- the defendant threw a substance at a motor vehicle or the occupant of a motor vehicle, and
- the defendant did so while the vehicle was on a public highway or road.1
Note that for misdemeanor convictions, it is not necessary that a prosecutor show that:
- the defendant threw a “dangerous” object,2 or
- the accused threw a substance at a moving vehicle.3
For a felony conviction, a prosecutor must prove the following:
- the defendant maliciously and willfully threw a substance capable of doing serious bodily injury (such as a rock, brick, or bottle), and
- the defendant threw the object at a vehicle with the intent to cause great bodily injury/serious bodily harm.4
2. Are there common defenses to Vehicle Code 23110 charges?
Defendants have the right to challenge a VC 23110 accusation with certain legal defenses. Three common defenses include defendants showing that:
- there was an accident.
- they did not intend to cause a serious injury.
- a police officer violated one of their constitutional rights.
Defendants can always raise the defense that they violated the statute in question by accident. According to Burbank criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse:
“One of the most common legal defenses to charges of throwing objects at an automobile is a simple accident defense. Maybe something flew out of your car rather than you throwing it, or maybe you intended to toss an object out your car window but did not intend to hit another car. The combination of a resentful person whose car was hit, an aggressive or racially biased police officer and an overzealous prosecutor can lead to trumped-up charges against someone who did not even mean to throw anything at a car.”
2.2. No intent to cause injury
Recall that for felony charges involving VC 23110b, a prosecutor has to show that a defendant intended to cause great bodily injury. A defense, then, is for an accused to show that he/she did not act with this aim. But keep in mind that the defendant may still face misdemeanor charges under VC 23110a.
2.3. Violation of a constitutional right
Under California law, defendants can always contest charges under this code section by showing that law enforcement violated one of their constitutional rights. For example, maybe the police arrested the defendant without probable cause. A defendant can attempt to use a violation of his/her rights to get a charge reduced or even dropped altogether.
3. What are the penalties?
Misdemeanor violations of VC 23110 are punishable by:
- misdemeanor (summary) probation,
- up to six months of jail time, and/or
- a fine of up to $1,000.5
Felony violations are punishable by:
- felony (formal) probation,
- up to three years in California state prison, and/or
- a fine of up to $10,000.6
Note that under no circumstances is a violation of Vehicle Code 23110 treated as an infraction.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to a person throwing objects at a motor vehicle. These are:
- shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle – PC 246,
- assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1, and
- reckless driving – VC 23103.
4.1. Shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle – PC 246
Under Penal Code 246 PC, shooting at an inhabited dwelling or occupied vehicle is the crime where people discharge a firearm at an:
- inhabited dwelling,
- occupied building,
- occupied motor vehicle,
- occupied aircraft, or
- an inhabited house car such as an RV or camper.
Unlike violations of VC 23110, violations of this statute are always charged as a felony.
4.2. Assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1
Under Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC, assault with a deadly weapon is the crime where people attack (or attempt to attack) another person with a deadly weapon or by means likely to cause great bodily injury.
As with the crime of throwing objects at vehicles, assault with a deadly weapon includes an element involving a “victim’s” great bodily injury.
4.3. Reckless driving – VC 23103
Per Vehicle Code 23103 VC, reckless driving is the crime where people operate a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of other people or property.
In contrast to violations of VC 23110, violations of this statute are always charged as misdemeanor offenses.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our defense lawyers also represent clients throughout California, including those in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, Glendale, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Pasadena, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Torrance, and Orange County.
- California Vehicle Code Section 23110(a) VC.
- See same.
- See, for example, People v. Whitney (1978) 76 Cal.App.3d 863. See also People v. Mullendore (2014) 230 Cal. App.4th 848.
- California Vehicle Code 23110(b) VC.
- California Vehicle Code 42002 VC.
- California Penal Code Section 18 PC. See also California Penal Code 1170h PC.