We’ve all made mistakes in life. Some are silly and easily forgiven or forgotten. Others are more serious, and take time to work out. If you threw a substance or object at a vehicle as a joke, in anger, or for any other reason, you may have been surprised when you received a traffic ticket. Many people aren’t aware that this is a crime. If you weren’t the culprit at all, you must have been much more surprised. But no matter how you came to this situation, it’s important to understand the charges against you and what you can do about them with help from a San Diego traffic violations lawyer.
California Law Regarding Throwing Substances at a Vehicle
California takes traffic safety incredibly seriously, which is why this law is on the books. By throwing, tossing, flinging or launching any type of substance or object at a car, you create a distraction for the driver – a distraction that could cause an accident. Under California vehicle Code Section 23110, throwing a substance at a vehicle or its occupant on the highway is a misdemeanor offense. The substance can be anything, it doesn’t have to be inherently dangerous. Also, don’t be fooled by the term “highway.” This means any area open to the public and maintained for public use, which could be any street, alley, or freeway.
Throwing an object such as a rock, brick or bottle, or any substance capable of doing harm, with the malicious and willful intent to injure a person is a felony. In this instance, a prosecutor not only has to prove that an object or substance was purposefully thrown at the vehicle, but that the defendant also intended to hurt someone in the car.
In either situation, the prosecutor doesn’t have to prove damage to the car or injury to the vehicle’s occupant.
Examples of this offense include:
- A businessman dumps the rest of his coffee out the window on his commute to work. The coffee splatters all over the next car’s windshield.
- A group of people toss their half-full soda bottles and food containers off the side of a highway overpass as they walk home.
- Some teenagers purposefully drop rocks off an overpass, trying to hit the cars.
Defending Yourself in Court
There may be numerous defenses to your situation, and your attorney will advise you of the possibilities. One defense is that the police and prosecutors have the wrong person. You may be able to prove that whoever threw the substance or object wasn’t you.
A second defense is that a valid accident occurred, and that whatever substance was tossed at the car occurred because of a mishap. For instance, maybe you were walking across an overpass when someone pushed you. You fell against the side and dropped your open soda bottle into traffic below.
If you’ve been charged with the felony offense, you may be able to prove you lacked malicious intent and have the charge lowered to a misdemeanor.
If you’re found guilty of a misdemeanor, you could be sent to jail for up to 6 months and ordered to pay a fine up to $1,000. If you were found guilty of a felony, you may serve up to 3 years in prison and have to pay up to $10,000. Either conviction could result in a probationary period that restricts your rights and movement. You will also be responsible for court and attorney’s fees.
Collateral Consequences of Conviction
Any time someone is convicted of a crime, there are many more social consequences to go along with the statutory punishment. In addition to fines and time in jail or prison, you will have a permanent criminal record. This will follow you everywhere, from school to work to your home life. A criminal record can stop you from receiving federal student aid or being able to obtain a professional license. You may not be approved for apartments or private loans. It could be difficult to find a job.
If you were convicted of a felony, you lose the right to vote while you’re completing your sentence, and you lose the right to own firearms for a period of time.
Contact a San Diego Traffic Ticket Lawyer
People don’t realize it, but a traffic ticket is almost never a simple traffic ticket. In this case, a traffic ticket amounts to a misdemeanor or felony offense, which can follow you around forever. It’s hard to leave behind a criminal record and go back to your normal life.
If you’ve been charged with throwing something at a car, contact an attorney right away. San Diego criminal defense attorney Jessica McElfresh understands the ins and outs of traffic violations like these and will build you the strongest defense she can. Jessica has a proven track record of favorable outcomes for her clients. Call McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107.