In California, assault with a deadly weapon (CA Penal Code 245(a)(1)) is a ‘wobbler;’ it is at the discretion of the prosecutor whether or not to consider the charge a misdemeanor or a felony. Some considerations include the nature of the injury to the supposed victim and whether the person claiming assault was a ‘protected’ person, such as a police officer or a firefighter. This determination is also normally made, in part, according to the type of weapon used in the alleged assault. What happens when the ‘deadly weapon’ used is not a knife or gun, but a vehicle?
This is just the kind of question that 56-year-old (name withheld for privacy) must be asking himself after having been arrested on this particular charge while he is waiting for his $50,000 in bail to be posted. Apparently, he was in the process of backing out of a parking space on Valencia Street when he discovered that two bicyclists were in his path. The two cyclists became angry with him and entered into a verbal altercation with him, after which he purportedly hit one of the cyclists with his car, knocking him down and into a nearby street curb. Afterward, he drove off, only to be pursued by both cyclists, neither of whom were harmed, and an off-duty police officer that eventually made the arrest. Law enforcement officials are calling it a case of ‘road rage,’ but he may be facing up to 4 years in state prison, court-ordered victim restitution, and a maximum $10,000 fine.