Getting in or causing a collision can be stressful. Depending on the severity of the accident, the police could be called and if you caused the accident, you will have to deal with the ramifications such as insurance liability, increased insurance rates, possible court battles, possible criminal charges and sometimes a lot of out of pocket expenses. Dealing with facing all that after just being in an accident can seem like too much and so it is understandable some people will intentionally drive away from the scene of an accident before following proper procedure. If you are caught, however, you may face a misdemeanor hit and run charge under California Vehicle Code 20002(a), which mandates drivers involved in accidents resulting in damaged property pull safely over as soon as they can and then proceed with post-accident procedures like assisting involved drivers, calling the police to report the accident and exchanging insurance information. If you don't pull over and exchange information with the other driver or leave information if no other driver is present, you violate this code and are subject to prosecution. Furthermore, if the accident involved someone else getting hurt, you can face felony charges if you fail to pull over immediately, assist others involved and exchange personal as well as insurance information. It does not matter who caused the accident, you are still required to pull over and exchange information with the other driver or leave your information if no person is present. A hit and run charge involving just property damage to another person's property can result in the following penalties: higher insurance rates due to points on your driving record, fines up to $1000, jail time up to 6 months and a misdemeanor charge on your criminal record. A hit and run charge involving injury to another person can result in the following penalties: higher insurance rates due to points on your driving record, prison sentence of 3-4 years, fines between $1000 and $10,000 and, in most cases, a felony charge on your criminal record. A hit and run involving bodily injury can sometimes be tried as a misdemeanor. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to get your case evaluated and see what options you might have available to you. If you face just a misdemeanor charge, you may be able to reach a resolution with the victim or involved driver out of court, through reaching a "civil compromise". Civil compromise in California involves the party at fault to fully compensate the involved driver for the property damage they caused. Upon full compensation, the misdemeanor charge will then be dismissed. This is only an option when a reasonable civil remedy is available, such as paying to fix any damaged vehicles, and other requirements must be met so consult with an attorney if you desire this option. It may take some negotiation and having an experienced attorney by your side is your best chance of success here. In addition to what court processes you may go through, you will have to deal with the DMV as well. Upon being charged with a hit and run in California, the courts will automatically notify the DMV of your charge. The DMV will then hand down administrative penalties to you as well. If you are being charged with hit and run in California, you may have a valid legal defense in court based on the circumstances under which you drove away. You are mandated by law to pull over and exchange the proper information if you cause any damage to someone else's property or cause them any bodily injury. If you hit someone's parked car and dented their door then drove away, this could be considered a hit and run. If you hit someone's parked car and, after examination, saw that only your car was damaged, this is not considered a hit and run. Similarly, if you accidently hit someone's parked car or other property and were not aware of your actions or that your actions caused any damage, your "hit and run" would be completely unintentional and this may be a strong defense in court. If one of these defenses are successful, your charge could be dismissed or you could be acquitted. The important thing to remember is that cars are prone to accidents and pulling away from an accident is generally much worse than staying and dealing with the consequences. A hit and run in California could result in a number of consequences. There are a lot of variables that could affect your sentencing. If you do find yourself being charged with a hit and run, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away to ensure you take all the right steps in your defense.
Have you or a loved one been charged with a hit and run? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps towards having a strong defense. Call our offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.