What Is Vehicular Assault in California?

Vehicular assault occurs when a person uses a car, truck, or another automobile to cause or threaten to cause physical injury to another person. California does not have a statute specifically criminalizing such actions; however, a person could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon for using their vehicle against someone else. Depending on the circumstances, an individual could also be accused of committing various other offenses on top of vehicular assault.

For example, say police received a report that a man was driving recklessly. They attempt to pull him over, but he flees, and a high-speed chase ensues. At one point, he stops, and the cops surround his vehicle. However, instead of getting out of the car, he accelerates through the blockade hitting one of the officers. Eventually, he is apprehended, and one of the charges he faces is vehicular assault (or assault with a deadly weapon).

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Under California Penal Code 245(a)(1), a person commits this offense when they use an instrument capable of causing serious injury to or death of another person. Nearly anything that can harm someone else is considered a deadly weapon, which includes guns, knives, pillowcases, screwdrivers, and vehicles.

Assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler, meaning it could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the type of instrument used, and if the alleged victim was actually hurt. The level of offense will determine the exact penalties, but the violator could be punished by up to 1 year in jail or up to 12 years in prison.

If the person committed vehicular assault, their driving privileges could also be revoked without the possibility of reinstatement.

Other Possible Charges

Returning to the example given earlier, the driver could also face misdemeanor charges for evading a police officer and resisting arrest. Conviction penalties for these offenses include up to 1 year in county jail. Additionally, he could be accused of reckless driving, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

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