If you have been accused of involvement in a hit-and-run accident in Orange County, you may face serious penalties if you are convicted of the offense. California Vehicle Code §§ 20001 and 20002 criminalize hit-and-run accidents. How severe your offense is depends on whether the accident resulted in property damage and if someone was injured as a result. You will want to get help from an experienced criminal defense attorney in defending against the charges that are pending against you.
Felony hit-and-run accidents in California
In California, leaving the scene of an accident in which a person was injured is charged as a felony under California Vehicle Code § 20001. The statute outlines several duties that drivers have when they have been involved in an accident. These include the following:
- Immediately stop the vehicle after the accident
- Give all contact information, including the name, vehicle ownership information, vehicle registration number and insurance information to the other driver, the person who was struck or the responding officer
- Provide the names and addresses of all injured occupants
- Provide reasonable help to any injured person, which may include giving or arranging transportation to get medical help
- When asked, show the driver's license
- If someone dies, the law mandates immediately notifying law enforcement
Misdemeanor hit-and-run accidents
California Vehicle Code § 20002 criminalizes leaving the scene of an accident when only property damage resulted. Under this statute, drivers may be charged with misdemeanor offenses if they do not do the following:
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:
- Stop the vehicle at a place that is close to the accident that will not impede traffic
- Find and notify the vehicle or property owner to notify him or her
- If the owner can't be found, leave a note that can easily be seen and that includes the driver's name, the vehicle owner's name, the address and a short summary of what happened
- Notify the California Highway Patrol or the local police department
Potential penalties for hit-and-run accidents in California
If you are currently facing charges of hit and run for an accident that injured a person, you may face up to one year in the county jail, a fine between $1,000 and $10,000 or both imprisonment and a fine. A felony hit-and-run conviction will additionally add points to your license. If someone died in the accident, you may face a minimum of 90 days in jail up to 4 years in prison. You may also be assessed a fine between $1,000 and $10,000 or both imprisonment and a fine. Judges have the discretion to reduce the jail time if doing so would serve the interests of justice.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run, you may be sentenced to serve up to 6 months in jail. You may also be fined up to $1,000 or face both jail and a fine.
Potential defenses to a hit-and-run accident
There are several defenses that a defendant can assert when faced with a hit and run charge. The particular defenses that your criminal defense lawyer might raise will depend on what happened in your case.
If your vehicle was the only one that suffered damage, and there was no property damage of any sort to another person's car or property, then there will not be sufficient grounds for a hit-and-run case. In this scenario, your attorney will ask the prosecutor to dismiss your charge.
If you were not the person who was driving the vehicle that left the scene of the accident, then you shouldn't be charged. This sometimes happens when someone takes a car without getting the permission of its owner or when someone steals it.
If you didn't know that you had an accident or that there were property damages, then this is also a defense in California. Sometimes, this happens when people don't feel the accident's impact or when the damage is very minor.
If you couldn't stop and your reason for not doing so was a valid one, such as the other driver exhibiting road rage, you may also have a defense. The important thing about this type of defense is that you must notify the police or the California Highway Patrol immediately about the accident and why you left.
If you were charged for failing to render assistance, you may have a defense if you were also injured or physically unable to provide help for some other reason.
When you have been charged with being involved in a hit-and-run accident, it is important that you get legal help from an experienced attorney. We are the leading criminal defense law firm in Orange County and are ready to help you. Call criminal defense attorney Robert J. Hickey today to schedule your consultation and to learn about your rights.