When you bump into another vehicle, it may be tempting to quickly drive away and hope that nobody noticed. Many drivers who are involved in an accident panic and flee the scene without exchanging information or leaving a form of contact for the owner of the damaged vehicle. This constitutes a hit and run under California laws and can lead to criminal charges.
Hit and Run Laws
A hit and run can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether anyone was injured. If your accident only caused property damage, you will be charged with a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code Section 20002. According to this code section, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident has the following duties or face legal consequences:
- Stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of others; AND
- Locate and notify the owner of the property and present your license and registration, including your address; OR
- Leave in a conspicuous place on the property a written notice giving your name and address and a statement of the circumstances
If your accident caused injury to another person, then you may be convicted of a felony hit and run under VC Section 20001. This code section states that the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to another person must immediately stop at the scene of the crime, provide his/her information, and render reasonable assistance if medical treatment is necessary. Additionally, if the accident results in death, the driver must report the accident to law enforcement without delay.
Hit and Run Penalties
The penalties for a hit and run can be harsh, especially if someone is injured by your accident. For a misdemeanor hit and run where only property is damaged, you may face:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to 6 months in county jail
For a felony hit and run, on the other hand, the punishments drastically increase. A felony hit and run conviction is punishable by:
- $1,000 to $10,000 in fines
- Up to 1 year in state prison or county jail
Moreover, if the accident resulted in death or permanent, serious injury (meaning the loss or permanent impairment of a bodily member or organ), your sentence enhancements may include:
- $1,000 to $10,000 in fines
- 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison
In addition to hefty fines and jail time, the court may also order probation, restitution for any property damage, and up to 2 points on your driving record.
Hit and Run Defenses
If you have been accused of a hit and run, consult with an experienced attorney today to see if you qualify for a reduction or dismissal of your sentence based on a valid defense.
No Property Damage
For example, it is possible that no damage occurred, or damage only occurred to your own car. Say your vehicle bumps into the side of your neighbor’s house, but there was no damage to the wall. However, your neighbor hears the noise and decides to press charges anyway. If this is the case, then the prosecution cannot prove that you caused property damage, an essential element of the crime. Since there was no damage, your attorney may be able to get your case dismissed or at least negotiate for a reduced sentence.
Unsafe to Stop
In some instances, it may not be safe to stop after an accident. Maybe there is no place to pull over safely, or maybe you or your passenger is experiencing a medical emergency. Since there is no time to stop, the victim of the hit and run may assume that you are fleeing the scene of the accident because you want to avoid responsibility. However, this is not the case. A skilled defense attorney can explain your situation to the prosecutor in order to reduce your penalties.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are arrested for a hit and run in Riverside, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients defend against hit and run charges, and we have the skills and resources to help you avoid heavy fines and jail sentences.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you.
Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.