There are two general types of hit-and-run crimes in California.
#1. Vehicle Code 20001 applies to vehicle accidents that involve injury or death; and
#2. Vehicle Code 20002 applies to accidents involving only damage to property.
Here are five important things you should know about hit and run crimes in California:
#1. You Could Be Charged With Hit And Run Even If The Accident Was Not Your Fault.
It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident involving either property damage or injury without providing your contact information to the other driver. This law applies regardless of who was at fault in the accident. This means that even if you think that the other driver was at fault, the law requires you to immediately stop and provide your contact information to the other driver before you leave the scene of the accident.
#2. You Could Be Charged With Felony Hit And Run Even If The Only Person Injured Was Your Passenger.
Vehicle Code 20001 applies even if the only person injured in the accident was your own passenger. Therefore, even if you believe that there were no injuries suffered by the other driver or his passengers, you could still face felony charges if you leave the scene of the accident without providing your contact info, if there were injured passengers in your vehicle.
#3. You May Be Justified In Leaving The Scene Of The Accident If You Are Leaving To Seek Necessary Medical Attention For Yourself Or Someone Else.
There are certain bona fide emergencies that can legitimately justify the driver’s failure to leave the scene of an accident without immediately stopping and providing contact information to the other driver. You may be justified in leaving the scene of the accident if you are leaving in order to seek necessary medical attention for yourself or someone else.
#4. You Can Be Charged With Misdemeanor Hit And Run Even If There Was No Vehicle Damage.
Vehicle Code 20002 applies accidents that involve any kind of property damage. This damage need not include damage to another vehicle. Any type of property damage can trigger the statute, including damage to a fence, a mailbox, or another person’s pet.
#5. You May Be Able To Resolve A Misdemeanor Hit And Run Case With A Civil Compromise.
Penal Code 1377 provides that certain misdemeanor offenses, such as hit and run involving an accident with property damage, can be resolved with a civil settlement in lieu of criminal punishment. If the other driver agrees to this solution, you may be spared harsh punishments such as probation or even jail time.
As a former prosecutor, Diana Aizman of the Aizman Law Firm has unique insight into the defense of hit-and-run charges. Contact the Aizman Law Firm right away, if you have been charged with hit-and-run or any driving-related offense.
It is important to recognize that if you are involved in an accident that causes injury or property damage, and you leave the scene of the accident without providing your contact information to the other driver or property owner, you risk being charged with a hit & run offense.
Both statutes VC 20001 & VC 20002 require that any driver who is involved in an accident must immediately provide his or her name and current residence to the other driver involved in the accident.
Penalties for a hit and run crime involving injury is punishable by fines of between $1000 and $10,000 and incarceration in state prison for a period of up to four years.
Penalties for a hit and run crime involving only damage to property is punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and up to six months incarceration in county jail