Hit and Run Laws in California
In California, there are two types of hit and run charges – either a misdemeanor or felony crime. California Vehicle Code Section 20002 covers a misdemeanor offense and Vehicle Code Section 20001 covers a felony hit and run.
It should be noted that it doesn't matter which party was at fault in an accident. You are legally required to stop and exchange information with the other driver. In Los Angeles County, some drivers that were involved in a vehicle crash will panic and drive away from the scene. This decision can lead to criminal charges and severe penalties.
In Los Angeles County, misdemeanor Vehicle Code 20002 are the most common charges filed in a hit and run incident. This law criminalizes the act of leaving the scene of an accident without stopping to identify yourself, even if there were no injuries.
A common example of a misdemeanor hit and run offense under VC 20002 includes a situation where somebody was involved in a simple fender bender, but immediately panic and quickly drive away. Yet another example is when someone accidentally crashes into somebody's fence in their front yard, but makes the decision to just immediately flee the scene.
If you are involved in crash where you struck a parked vehicle, fence, or other property, you must make some type of effort to notify the owner. In a situation where you are unable to locate an owner, you have to leave a note on the damaged property. This note should include your name, address, and a brief description of what happened.
The primary factor in determining what type of hit and run charges you might face will be if anyone was injured in the accident. If you are convicted of hit and run in Los Angeles you can face severe consequences, including jail time and huge fines.
Contact our criminal defense lawyers to learn how we can help you get your hit and run charges reduced to a lesser offense or dismissed.
Description of California's Hit and Run Laws
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 20002 VC describes a misdemeanor crime of hit and run as:
Any driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property or vehicle shall stop at the nearest location that won't impede traffic or jeopardize safety of other motorists.
Vehicle Code 2002 describes primary responsibilities of drivers who are involved in an accident causing property damage:
- You must immediately stop your car
- You must provide other party with your name and address
- You have to provide driver's license and car registration if requested
You don't have to be the owner of the vehicle you were driving and you can still be arrested for hit and run even in cases where you were not responsible for the accident. As stated, if you struck a parked car or other property causing damage – and you are unable to find the owner – you have to leave a note and notify the police about the accident. of the accident.
In other words, if you are involved in an accident causing any type of damage, you have to stop and exchange information with the other parties involved. This means you have to stop and exchange personal information when:
- You collide with another moving vehicle, even if it's not your fault
- You collide with a parked vehicle
- You collide with a pedestrian, bicycle, or motorcycle
It should be noted the extent of damage caused in the accident is irrelevant. Any amount of damage, even minor, requires that you exchange or leave personal identifying information. Vehicle Code 14601.4 VC defines the crime of driving on a suspended or revoked license causing injury.
Felony Hit and Run
California vehicle Code 20001 VC describes felony hit and run as follows:
Any driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in injury or death to another person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill their legal requirements described Vehicle Code Sections 20003 and 20004.
This means a hit and run is a misdemeanor crime unless the accident causes bodily injury. If you leave the scene of an accident and know there was a likely chance an injury occurred, you could face felony hit and run charges.
California Vehicle Code 20001 describes specific legal requirements on a driver who was involved in an accident that likely caused an injury. If you fail to follow certain requirement after an accident, you will be facing felony hit and run charges. You must:
- Stop your vehicle immediately at a safe location
- Provide your name, address, and vehicle registration to injured driver
- Provide reasonable assistance to get injured driver medical care
- Provide relevant information to police officer at the scene
If you fail to follow these steps, you will most likely face felony hit and run charges in violation of Vehicle Code 20001.
California Hit and Run Penalties
If convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run violating California Vehicle Code 20002, the penalties include up to 6 months in the county jail, a fine up to $1,000, and two points on your California driver's license. Depending on your criminal history, you could be placed on probation for three years and required to complete community service.
If convicted of felony hit and run in violation of California Vehicle Code 20002, causing serious or permanent injury or death, the penalties include a minimum of 90 days in a Los Angeles County jail, up to four years in a California state prison, a fine up to $10,000, and victim restitution.
Civil Compromise to Avoid Hit-and-Run Criminal Penalties
In some misdemeanor hit-and-run cases, it might be possible to get your criminal charges dismissed if you take responsibility for all the accident expenses. This is known as a “civil compromise,” the requirements are described under California Penal Code 1378 PC. If you meet all the requirements, the court can dismiss the criminal charges against you.
This means you will be required to compensate the injured victim for all of their damages. After you make payment in full, the injured victim could appear in court and tell the judge you have paid all the relevant expenses and request the charges to be dismissed. Again, it's the court's discretion whether the criminal charges will be dropped.
Fighting Hit and Run Charges
There are a variety of defenses against hit-and-run charges in Los Angeles. In order to be convicted, the Los Angeles County prosecutor assigned to your case has to be able to prove all the elements of the crime. Our criminal defense lawyers can make several different arguments, including the following:
Lack of knowledge
The prosecutor has to prove you either knew you caused property damage injury, or you should have reasonably known. Perhaps we can argue you didn't know you were involved in an accident that caused property damage or injury to the other driver.
You were not the driver
The prosecutor must prove you were the driver of the vehicle. Perhaps you loaned your car to a friend, or maybe someone else with access to your vehicle borrowed it without your knowledge.
Perhaps we can make an argument you were falsely accused and wrongly arrested. Maybe you are the victim of mistaken identity and were not involved in a hit-and-run accident. Maybe someone accused you of hitting and running out of anger or revenge.
If you were accused of being involved in a hit-and-run accident, you should immediately contact a Los Angeles hit-and-run attorney at our law firm. We need to review the details of your case and legal options.
The consequences of a hit-and-run conviction can be life-altering. By retaining an experienced criminal lawyer, you are giving yourself the best chance at a favorable outcome. We have a record of success in all types of hit-and-run cases and will work aggressively to resolve your case in your favor. We provide a free case evaluation.