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Runaway Vehicle

Vehicle Code 20002(b) VC - Runaway Vehicle Causing Property Damage

The reckless operation of a vehicle can cause serious property damage or injuries, such as when an unattended car becomes a runaway.

California Vehicle Code 20002(b) VC covers a situation where a parked vehicle becomes a runaway and subsequently causes property damage. Suppose the vehicle owner does not follow proper notification and reporting requirements. In that case, it could become a crime.

California Vehicle Code 20002(b) VC - Runaway Vehicle Causing Property Damage
It's a crime for the owner of a runaway vehicle to fail to make proper notification willfully.

To convict someone of violating VC 20002(b), a prosecutor would have to prove a defendant parked a vehicle, which became a runaway vehicle causing damage, and that the defendant willfully failed to provide the owner with their contact information immediately.

The owner of the runaway vehicle can comply with the notice and reporting requirements by finding the owner or person in control of the damaged property and providing the requisite information directly.

They could also leave the required information in a written note and place it on the damaged property or vehicle. The owner of the runaway vehicle must also notify the police about the incident without unnecessary delay.

Vehicle Code 20002(b) says, “(b) Any person who parks a vehicle which, before the car again being driven, becomes a runaway vehicle and is involved in an accident resulting in damage to any property, attended or unattended, shall comply with the requirements of this section relating to notification and reporting and shall, upon conviction thereof, be liable to the penalties of this section for failure to comply with the requirements.

(c) Any person failing to comply with all the requirements of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”

Runaway Vehicle – Quick Facts

You should know some essential facts about California Vehicle Code 20002(b) VC, runaway vehicle causing property damage law, such as the following:

  • This law deals with criminal liability for causing property damage due to a runaway vehicle.
  • This law targets cases when a driver parks their car, which becomes a runaway, damaging property, and the driver fails to act appropriately.
  • The owner of a runaway vehicle causing damage must comply with specific notification and reporting requirements or face criminal charges.
  • To convict, it must be proven that the defendant willfully failed to immediately provide the owner or someone in control of the damaged property with their contact information or the owner's info if another party owns it.
  • A conviction is a misdemeanor that carries up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine, but judges often impose only summary probation.

What Are the Proper Notification Procedures?

Vehicle Code 20002 VC details the proper procedures for what a driver must do in cases where their vehicle causes property damage, including to another car, whether in an accident while driving or as a runaway vehicle after parking, such as the following:

  • Locate the property or vehicle owner and personally give them your driver's license and vehicle registration information or
  • If the owner can't be located, leave a note in a conspicuous place with your contact information and explain what happened and  
  • Notify local law enforcement about the accident as soon as possible.

Section 20002(a)(1) says, “(1) 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 and, 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. The information presented shall include the driver's and registered owner's current residence address. If the registered owner of an involved vehicle is present at the scene, they shall also, upon request, present their driver's license information, if available, or other valid identification to the other involved parties.”

What Are the Elements of the Crime?

To convict you for violating VC 20002(b), the prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, such as the following:

  • You parked their vehicle,
  • The vehicle became runaway due to your failure to set the brakes or use other precautions,
  • The runaway vehicle subsequently caused property damage,
  • You willfully failed to stop and fulfill the legal requirements immediately.

What Are the Related Laws?

Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 20002(b) VC runaway vehicle causing property damage, including the following:

What Are the VC 20002(b) Defenses?

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys could use different strategies if you are accused of violating Vehicle Code Section 20002(b) VC, as discussed below.

Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge. It must be proven there was a willful disregard of the notification requirements. Perhaps you were unaware that your vehicle moved or caused property damage.

Maybe your car rolled just a couple of feet into the car behind it, and you would not have reasonably known to leave a note or talk to the owner. Maybe we can argue that there was no property damage. A runaway vehicle is not a crime unless it causes some damage and you fail to give proper notification.

Maybe we can argue that you fulfilled the proper notification requirements. Recall that you can't be charged with this crime unless you failed to make notification of the incident.

Perhaps you are the victim of mistaken identity, and we can prove that you were not responsible for the runaway vehicle. You can contact our law firm for a free case review by phone or through the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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