Hit And Run
A Hit and Run can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California.
I. HIT AND RUN CHARGED UNDER VC 20002
A misdemeanor Hit and Run is generally charged under Vehicle Code (VC) 20002. You can be charged with VC 20002 if you:
a. Leave the scene of an accident,
b. Without identifying yourself to other party(ies) involved, and
c. There was property damage to another party as a result of the accident.
A misdemeanor hit and run can be raised to a felony hit and run if the other party(ies) involved was injured or killed as a result of the accident.
If you leave the scene of the accident without identifying yourself to the other party(ies) involved, you can be charged with hit and run even if you were not on fault, or the damage and/or injury caused by the accident was very minor.
Further, another car does not have to be involved for a hit and run charge. For example, you can be charged with a hit and run for leaving the scene after hitting a something on someone’s property such as a fence, mailbox, etc. You can also be charged with a hit and run if your car caused an accident but your car did not actually come into contact with any other vehicle.
For these reasons, many people get charged with misdemeanor hit and run even when they don’t realize they did anything wrong.
II. DUTIES IMPOSED BY VC 20002 IF YOU ARE IN A CAR ACCIDENT
VC 20002 lays out the duties a driver has if involved in a car accident. It requires the driver to:
1. Immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists,
2. Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle involved,
3. Upon locating the driver of any other vehicle involved or the owner or person in charge of any damaged property, upon being requested, present his or her driver’s license, and vehicle registration, to the other driver, property owner, or person in charge of that property.
a. The information presented shall include the current residence address of the driver and of the registered owner. If the registered owner of an involved vehicle is present at the scene, he or she shall also, upon request, present his or her driver’s license information, if available, or other valid identification to the other involved parties.
4. If the owner of the property is not present at the time of the accident, for example, if you hit a parked car: Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances. Also, without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city where the collision occurred or, if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.
Failure to do any of the above can result in being charged with a Hit and Run. Note that even if you are not at fault for the accident, if you fail to comply with any of the above, you can still be charged with Hit and Run.
III. HIT AND RUN CHARGED UNDER VC 20001
A Hit and Run charge filed under Vehicle Code (VC) 20001 can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Many of the elements listed above under VC 20002 come into play under VC 20001. The main additional element of VC 20001 occurs when there is a death or injury of another party involved in the accident, and you had knowledge, or reasonably should have known that the injury or death occurred.
1. Hit and Run under VC 20002 (Misdemeanor Hit and Run)
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run, the penalty can be steep. Penalty can include up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $1,000 (plus penalty assessment), probation, and restitution to the victim(s). Restitution is when a payment is made to a victim so they are not out of pocket based on the accident. For example, paying for fixing their car, or medical bills.
2. Hit and Run under VC 20001 (someone other than you is injured or killed)
If convicted under VC 20001, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony (otherwise known as a “wobbler”). The penalty if convicted as a felony can include state prison up to 3 years, or 4 years if the accident resulted in death, as well as a fine between $1,000 to $10,000 plus penalty assessment, and other potential consequences.
*Note, a person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of Section 191.5 of, or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code, can be subject to an additional sentence of 5 years prison.
In the event you are convicted under VC 20001 as a misdemeanor, the maximum jail sentence you would face is 1 year, along with other listed penalties.
V. LEGAL DEFENSES TO HIT AND RUN CHARGES
There are many potential defenses that can come into play when faced with a hit and run charge. Defenses include:
1. If there was no other damage down to any 3rd party or 3rd party property,
2. You didn’t realize that you were in an accident, or that there was property damage done to someone else’s car or property. For example, if you drive a large SUV and back up into a small vehicle pulling out of a parking spot, it is possible that you would not have felt any impact at all. If the other vehicle sustained major damage, this is probably not a realistic defense. But in cases where the damage was very minor, it can come into play.
3. You were not the driver of the vehicle. For example, someone else had access to your car, or it was stolen. In essence, the prosecutor must be able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were involved. Just because it was your car that was involved in the accident does not mean that you were even at the scene of the accident.
VI. PRE-FILING MITIGATION
It is often possible to avoid charges being filed by having a criminal defense attorney get involved early on. In many Hit and Run cases an investigator may reach out to you to ask questions. Where I have been retained early on in many cases I have been successful in completely avoiding charges ever being filed.
VII. CIVIL COMPROMISE
If you are charged with a misdemeanor hit and run, one possibility of getting charges dismissed is through what is known as a civil compromise. In essence, the victim agrees that they compensated for their costs associated with the damage sustained by the accident. Note that the Judge has to approve such a compromise, and even if the victim is willing to accept such an agreement, it still has to be cleared with the Court.
VIII. EXPERIENCED LEGAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY
I am experienced in handling Hit and Run cases and have a successful record getting hit and run charges dismissed, and at times helping to avoid charges from being filed at all. In some cases, I have been able to help in avoiding charges from being filed at all.
Call me at (818) 336-1384 to discuss your situation in more detail. It is best to call sooner as to later as dealing with Insurance companies and Investigators in connection with the incident can become complicated and actions taken without proper legal advice can be detrimental to minimizing potential consequences.
Other related charges:
Charges related to hit and run and often alleged at the same time as a Hit and Run charge: