If you’ve been charged with a hit and run offense, the fear of “what could happen” can be paralyzing. We provide every caller and every client with the personal attention they need to feel secure. If you’ve got questions, our hit and run lawyers are here to help with a free consultation.
“Hit and run” is the generic name given to a driver’s failure to do everything the law requires after being involved in a traffic accident that causes an injury, death, or property damage. The crime is usually charged when a driver leaves the scene of an accident without stopping, but it can also be charged when a driver fails to discharge any other duty imposed by California law. The severity of the offense depends upon the nature of the accident.
Hit and run is a serious crime. In addition to other punishments, a conviction may affect your driving privileges and insurance rates. Randy Collins is ready to put his years of experience to work on your behalf if you are charged with a California hit and run. To make an appointment to discuss your case, call us at (888) 250-2865.
How your duties as a driver are used against you
Whenever you drive on public roads in California (and even, in some cases, on private property), you are subject to California’s Vehicle Code. Sections 20001 to 20008 of the Vehicle Code impose certain duties upon drivers who were involved in an accident.
If you were involved in an accident that caused property damage (other than your own property), you must:
- immediately stop at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or jeopardize the safety of other drivers
- find the person who owns or controls the damaged property
- give that person your name and address
- if asked to do so, show your driver’s license and vehicle registration to that person
- if you cannot find the person who owns or controls the damaged property at the scene of the accident, write down your name and address and an explanation of the accident, leave that information in a conspicuous place on the damaged property, and promptly notify the police department that has jurisdiction where the accident occurred
- within 24 hours after the accident, give a written accident report to the California Highway Patrol or to the city police
If you were involved in an accident that caused injury or death to someone else, you must:
- immediately stop at the scene of the accident
- give your name, address, vehicle registration number, and the name and address of the vehicle’s owner to the other persons involved in the accident
- give that same information to any police officer who comes to the scene of the accident
- render reasonable assistance to each person injured in the accident
Rendering reasonable assistance means transporting, or arranging for the injured person to be transported, to a doctor or hospital if:
- it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or
- the injured person asks you to provide transportation
Unless the injuries are clearly minor, it is generally safer to call an ambulance than to transport an injury victim yourself. You do not want to risk causing further injury by moving an accident victim who may have suffered a serious injury.
What prosecutors need to convict for California hit and run offenses
“Hit and run” does not necessarily require leaving the scene of the accident, although that is the conduct that most often leads to an arrest. The failure to comply with any of the requirements listed above can be charged as a crime, even if you remained at the scene. For example, if you stopped after the accident but refused to identify yourself or gave a false name to the other driver, you could be charged with a hit and run offense.
Most hit and run offenses involve collisions, but any driving that contributes to an accident triggers the duties described above. For instance, if you swerved into another driver’s lane, running that driver off the road and into a lamppost, you have a duty to stop and take the other actions described above.
If the accident involved property damage but no injury, a driver’s failure to comply with all of the required actions is a misdemeanor. Section 20002 of the California Vehicle Code sets a maximum jail term of 6 months and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Hit and run misdemeanors usually involve collisions with another vehicle (including parked cars), but causing damage to any object while driving triggers the duties described above. For example, it would be a crime to drive through a fence or to knock down a mailbox without trying to notify the property owner and reporting the accident. Damaging government property (such as a street sign) imposes the same duty to notify the government of the damage.
If the accident involved injury or death, hit and run is a wobbler. That means the prosecutor can charge it as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is charged as a felony and the injury was not serious, section 20001 provides for a maximum prison sentence of 3 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. If death or serious injury resulted, the maximum prison sentence increases to 4 years.
Top defenses for hit and run you should consider
A number of defenses can be raised to a hit and run charge, including:
- You did not know an accident occurred (provided that not noticing the accident was reasonable)
- In felony cases, you did not know that anyone was injured (if your lack of knowledge was reasonable)
- Your driving did not contribute to the accident
- You were not the driver
- No accident or injury actually occurred (you are being blamed by someone making a fraudulent insurance claim for preexisting damage or injuries)
- You did your best to comply with the law but were unable to do so (perhaps because of your own injury) so that your failure to comply was not “willful”
Other defenses may also be available, depending on the unique facts of your case. To learn about the defenses that can be raised in your specific case, speak with an experienced lawyer.
How our hit and run defense attorneys can help
If you are concerned about what will happen to you following your hit and run charge, we’re here to help. Attorney Randy Collins works with every client that retains our firm and provides free case evaluations. His experience as a former prosecutor and top rated record can help you through this troubled time. To make an appointment with a hit and run defense lawyer at our Santa Ana, Fullerton, Newport Beach, or Riverside location, call us at (888) 250-2865. We’ll provide you with a free consultation and help you better understand your options.