Auto accidents are relatively common in California, causing a significant portion of traffic fatalities in the US each year. Though driving on California roads is fairly dangerous, many accidents are minor and do not involve gross negligence or recklessness. Often, auto accidents are resolved through civil action or through insurance companies. Most auto accidents do not result in criminal charges. However, certain circumstances may warrant a criminal charge. Alcohol related traffic fatalities account for nearly 30% of all traffic fatalities in California. Given these statistics, causing an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can land you in jail. A DUI is a common California driving crime that is punishable by jail time, but the jail sentence will increase if you caused an accident as a result of your impairment, injuring or killing an involved party or damaging property. If you cause an accident, chances are the local authorities will be called and, if you have been drinking, be rest assured the police will probably find out. However, while you may be tempted to flee from such a scene for fear of getting caught driving under the influence, think twice before you drive away from the accident without stopping. As a driver involved in an accident, regardless of if you were under the influence, you could face criminal charges for failing to follow the rules of the road in California.
As a California driver, you have certain duties in the event of an accident. California law requires all those involved in an accident take certain steps to ensure the safety of those involved and provide the information needed to establish liability and coverage. If involved in an accident, you must assist any injured parties involved, if you are able. You are also required to notify the authorities if anyone has been injured or killed. Similarly, if there was apparent property damage in excess of $750 or if anyone was injured or killed, you must report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of the accident. Not heeding these rules can result in you being charged with a hit and run, a misdemeanor charge in California. A hit and run, under California Vehicle Code 20001 is punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000. It is important to keep in mind that the penalties for a hit and run will go up if anyone was injured or killed and, without stopping to assess the situation, you could be driving away from someone in need of assistance. If someone suffered a permanent, serious injury or were killed in the accident you pull away from, you could face up to four years in a state prison along with a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000. Given these penalties, it is clear California takes hit and runs seriously and holds every driver involved in an accident liable for following the post-accident procedures as required by law. If you have caused an accident and are concerned about possible criminal charges, speak with an experienced driving crime defense attorney as soon as you can. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on what defense options you have and what consequences you may face if you are convicted. It is important to take all the required steps following an accident, even if you do not believe you are fault. The consequences you face for simply causing an accident are considerably less than they are for pulling a hit and run. There are several ways in which you can go to jail for causing an accident, if certain other elements are present. If you cause an accident and do not stop, you can face a misdemeanor hit and run charge, punishable by up to one year in a county jail. Similarly, if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you caused the accident, you can face a DUI charge, which is punishable by up to six months in a county jail, longer if anyone was injured or killed.
Are you facing criminal charges as a result of an accident you caused? Contact attorney Christopher Martens for legal help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in driving crime defense, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps towards having a strong defense. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and will fight for your rights all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.