Hit and Run
In California, hit and run law is codified in the California Vehicle Code Sections 20001 and 20002. The duties of the driver and the severity of the penalties under California law depend on whether there was property damage or a personal injury.What is California Hit and Run?
California hit and run law makes a distinction between hit and runs involving property damage and hit and runs involving a personal injury.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 20001, leaving the scene of a traffic accident where a person has been injured is a felony. It is also a felony if the driver of the vehicle, regardless of fault, fails to comply with the following:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident
- Give their name, address, vehicle registration number, and vehicle ownership information to the officer at the scene, person struck, or driver or occupants of the vehicle struck
- Supply the officer, person struck, or driver or occupants of the vehicle struck with names and addresses of any occupants of the driver’s vehicle that were injured
- Render reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident, including providing transportation or arranging for transportation to seek medical assistance, if it is apparent that the injured person is in need of medical assistance.
- Upon request, show their driver’s license, or in the case of an injured occupant, other form of identification to the officer, person struck, or driver or occupants of the vehicle struck
- If death results to any person from the accident and there are no police or traffic officers on the scene, every driver involved has the legal obligation to immediately report the accident to the nearest office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol or police station.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 20002, leaving the scene of a traffic accident where there has been only property damage is a misdemeanor. A driver will be charged with a misdemeanor if he or she fails to comply with the following:
- Immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or endanger other motorists
- After stopping, the driver must immediately do one of the following: (1) locate and notify the owner of the vehicle or property damage, and upon request present a driver’s license and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle, or (2) leave a conspicuous notice with the driver & owner’s name and address and an explanation of the circumstances and notify the local police department or California Highway Patrol
If a person was injured and convicted of felony hit and run, the defendant may face up to one year in jail, be forced to pay a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, or both. A felony hit and run conviction will also add points to a license. If a death results from the accident, the defendant will face a minimum of 90 days in county jail and a maximum of 4 years in state prison, be forced to pay a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, or both. However, a court may reduce or eliminate jail time if it is in the interests of justice.
If only property damage occurred and the defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor, he or she may be sentenced to no more than six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.What are the Defenses for California Hit and Run?
There are several defenses that a defendant can assert when faced with a hit and run charge. These include:
- The only damage suffered was to your own vehicle. If there is no property damage of any kind to anybody else—perhaps because the crash involved a concrete barrier—there is no property damage and therefore no cause of action for a hit and run charge.
- You were not driving the vehicle. If a person is not the driver of the vehicle in the accident, they cannot be charged with a hit and run. This can happen if your vehicle is stolen or if it is taken without your permission.
- You did not know that you were involved in an accident or that there were damages. Not knowing that there was an accident or damages is a viable defense under the California Vehicle Code. This can happen if the property damage is insignificant or you did not feel the impact.
- You could not stop. If, for example, the accident involves road rage and the other driver pulls over and is threatening to you, this can be a defense for not stopping your vehicle. However, it is important that you report the accident to the police or California Highway Patrol immediately.
- You could not render assistance. If there was a death involved, a defense to not rendering assistance is that you physically were unable to because you were also injured in the accident, were knocked unconscious, or your car was not drivable.
Our criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Lauren K. Johnson will provide you with experienced legal defense for hit and run charges. If facing possible hit and run charges it is important to get in touch with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can be reached by phone at (949) 622-5522 or you can send us a message online today.