Every day, good people are involved in motor vehicle collisions and, due to panic or confusion, leave the scene of the accident, thereby exposing themselves to hit and run charges and the serious consequences that may accompany a hit and run conviction, including jail time, fines, probation, restitution and a suspension of driving privileges, not to mention increased auto insurance rates and other penalties. Even if you are involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be arrested for hit and run if you leave the scene of the accident without stopping, and the consequences of a hit and run charge are even more severe if the accident causes some type of bodily injury to another person, again, even if you aren’t the one who caused the injury. If you have been charged with – or are under investigation for – hit and run in Los Angeles, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to defend your case. Our legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles is committed to defending clients wrongfully accused of hit and run and making sure they understand their rights under California law.
Affordable Hit and Run Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Even a seemingly minor hit and run accident can have potentially devastating consequences, possibly including jail time, steep fines and points on your driver’s license, and more serious offenses can carry long-lasting penalties that can adversely affect the rest of your life. There are many different reasons that could cause someone to flee the scene of an accident without stopping. Some people involved in hit and run accidents, for example, leave the scene because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and they don’t want to get arrested. However, not all Los Angeles hit and run offenses are malicious. Some drivers may not realize that it is a crime to leave the scene of an accident or may not realize any injuries or damage occurred; others may leave the scene because they were frightened, and later regret not staying and following the proper protocol. Whatever the circumstances of your Los Angeles hit and run case, defending yourself against these charges is never a good idea. You need an aggressive hit and run defense attorney on your side to protect you from the consequences of a criminal conviction. Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today for a free initial consultation.
Hit and Run
A hit and run accident occurs when a driver is involved in an accident and subsequently flees the scene without stopping, whether the accident involved a parked car, another car on the road, or someone else’s property. Under California law, if you are involved in a traffic accident, regardless of whether the accident was your fault, you are required to stop and exchange information with all parties involved. If the accident results in damage to a parked car or someone else’s property, you are required to stop and attempt to locate the owner. If the owner cannot be located, you must leave a detailed note that describes the circumstances of the collision and contains your contact information and driver documentation. You must also report the accident to the local police or the California Highway Patrol.
The California Vehicle Code requires drivers to take the following steps after being involved a Los Angeles car accident:
- Immediately stop your vehicle in a safe location;
- Exchange with all other parties the names and addresses of everyone in your vehicle;
- Provide your insurance and vehicle registration to anyone who was injured in the accident;
- Provide all relevant information to traffic or police officers at the scene of the accident; and
- Provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the accident.
If you don’t follow these mandatory procedures after being involved in a Los Angeles car accident that causes damage to another person’s vehicle or property, no matter how minor the damage, and you are caught, you could be charged with a hit and run offense under California Vehicle Code § 20001(a) VC or Vehicle Code § 20002(a) VC. If the alleged victim or potential witnesses to the accident fail to capture your license plate number and you were not followed, it is possible you could get away with the crime. If, however, the police are able to locate you, you could be prosecuted for misdemeanor or felony hit and run.
Conviction for Hit and Run Vehicle Code § 20001(a)
In California, it is against the law to leave the scene of a traffic accident before producing the proper documentation and exchanging insurance information with the other parties involved in the collision, and if you leave the scene of an accident knowing that an injury likely occurred, you could be prosecuted for felony hit and run. In order for the prosecution to get a conviction under Vehicle Code § 20001(a) VC hit and run involving death or injury, they must prove the following elements of the crime:
- That you were involved in an accident;
- That you knew an accident had occurred;
- That you knew either someone other than yourself was injured or killed, or that the nature of the accident made it likely that another person was injured or killed; and
- That you willfully failed to perform one or more of the required duties outlined by the California Vehicle Code.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Conviction
In the state of California, the criminal offense known as “hit and run” can be prosecuted under two different sections of the California Vehicle Code: VC 20001(a), which applies to traffic accidents resulting in injury or death to another person, and VC 20002(a), which applies to collisions resulting in property damage but no injuries to anyone other than the driver. Depending on the severity of the accident, the extent of damage resulting from the accident, and whether or not you have a prior hit and run conviction on your record, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense carrying significant penalties. The most important deciding factor in determining what type of charges you may face for a Los Angeles hit and run is whether anyone was injured in the accident.
Under the California Vehicle Code § 20001(a) VC, a hit and run accident resulting in injuries or death to another person is a “wobbler” that can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the defendant’s driving history, the alleged victim’s injuries and other factors. Misdemeanor hit and run with injury is punishable by up to one year in county jail, up to $1,000 in fines, and/or two points on the defendant’s DMV driving record. Felony hit and run with injury is a much more serious offense, punishable by up to three years in state prison (or up to four years for a felony hit and run causing great bodily injury), up to $10,000 in fines, two points on the defendant’s DMV driving record, and a felony criminal record. On the other hand, Vehicle Code § 20002(a), property damage hit and run, is always charged as a misdemeanor criminal offense, punishable by up to six months in county jail, up to $1,000 in fines, and/or two points on the defendant’s DMV driving record.
Defenses to Hit and Run Charges
It is important to note that you could be arrested for a Los Angeles hit and run even if you were not responsible for the accident. Having a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side when facing hit and run charges can significantly improve your chances of reaching a favorable solution to your case. An experienced California hit and run defense attorney will hold the prosecution to its burden of proof and can develop a strong defense strategy on your behalf. The following are some arguments your attorney may use to defend you against hit and run charges:
- You were the only one injured in the accident
- You weren’t the one driving your car
- You didn’t “willfully” flee the scene or fail to identify yourself after the accident
- You didn’t know that an accident had occurred
- You didn’t know that anyone else had been injured in the accident
Hiring a Knowledgeable Hit and Run Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
There are a number of important factors that go into defending yourself against hit and run charges in Los Angeles, and when facing such charges, it is imperative that you have a criminal defense attorney on your side who has a comprehensive understanding of the California Vehicle Code and the intricacies of the California criminal justice system. In some cases, a person who leaves the scene of a Los Angeles car accident does so completely innocently or unknowingly, and it isn’t right for these people to face criminal hit and run charges. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a hit and run accident in Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to protect your legal rights. Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to ensure that you understand the charges pending against you and to begin building a strong defense in your case.