It’s Still Hit and Run, Even If the Accident Wasn’t Your Fault
In California, it is illegal to leave the scene of a motor vehicle accident in which you were involved. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident – you or another driver. You are still required by law to remain at the scene until certain conditions have been met. It is not a defense against hit and run if the accident was not your fault.
How Is Hit and Run Defined in California?
It is also a crime to leave the scene of an accident in which you are involved that causes property damage only, under Vehicle Code 20002. Under the law, you must stop and exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the crash, regardless of who was at fault. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor offense. If a person was injured or killed, leaving the scene of the accident without stopping to render aid and exchange information is a violation of California Vehicle Code 20001. In this case, hit and run is a “wobbler,” meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, at the discretion of the prosecution.
When Could a Person Be Justified in Leaving the Scene of an Accident?
Leaving the scene of an accident may be justified in certain emergency situations. For example, if a passenger in your vehicle was seriously injured and you left the scene to get emergency medical attention for that person, your actions may be justified. The same may apply if you left to get emergency medical treatment for your own injuries.
What Are the Penalties for Hit and Run in California?
A driver involved in a crash is required under state law to stop and immediately provide contact information to other drivers involved, along with driver’s license and vehicle registration if requested. Failure to do so constitutes the crime of hit and run, no matter which driver was at fault. When an accident causes only property damage, this crime is punishable by up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If someone was injured in the crash, hit and run carries penalties including a prison sentence of up to four years and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
What If the Charges Include DUI?
Penalties are even more severe for DUI hit and run – driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and leaving the scene of an accident. When DUI and hit and run are combined, a conviction may carry:
- A state prison sentence of two to four years if someone was seriously injured or killed in the crash
- A jail sentence of up to one year if the accident caused minor injuries
- Fines of $1,000 to $10,000
- Up to six months in jail or fines of up to $1,000 if the crash caused property damage only
Why Is It Crucial to Speak With a Qualified Hit and Run Criminal Attorney?
Penalties are severe for hit and run in California, particularly when it involves DUI. If you have been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide a better chance of obtaining the best outcome in your case. The burden is on the prosecution to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A good lawyer will raise defenses against the charges.
At jD LAW, P.C., you will find a seasoned legal strategist to defend you against the charges. Our firm was founded in 1990. Founding attorney James N. Dicks is a former police investigator and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist who has been rated 10.0 Superb on Avvo. If you are facing hit and run charges, call us today at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free consultation.
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