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Hit-and-Run Charges & Penalties

Posted in Criminal Defense on January 25, 2020

Hit-and-run accidents often lead to serious injuries and property damage. In California, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. If you or someone you care about has been charged with hit-and-run, you need to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. A guilty conviction could result in serious consequences, including jail time and fines.

What is considered a hit-and-run?

Hit-and-run collisions are not uncommon in California. According to the state Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), there were 26,612 injuries and 329 fatalities as a result of hit-and-run collisions during the latest reporting year in the state.

The typical elements of a hit-and-run are a driver who is involved in a crash who then fails to:

  • Stop at the scene of the crash
  • Provide identification
  • Offer assistance to anyone injured in the accident

Hit-and-run incidents do not have to involve collisions between two moving vehicles. These incidents can also include:

  • Pedestrians
  • Motorcycles
  • Bicyclists
  • Parked cars
  • Other property

Hit and Run Penalties and Charges

California law regarding a hit-and-run

There are a few different laws in California that relate to hit-and-run incidents. Misdemeanor hit-and-run incidents are covered by California Vehicle Code 20002. California law prohibits anyone from leaving the scene of an accident without first identifying themselves to other people involved in the incident if the other people sustained any property damage.

Some examples of a misdemeanor hit-and-run could include:

  • A driver striking another vehicle but leaving the scene despite clearly seeing the damage caused to the other vehicle.
  • An impaired driver slamming into a person’s mailbox but leaving the scene and returning home.

A more serious offense is felony hit-and-run, as covered under California Vehicle Code 20001. This law makes it illegal for anyone to flee the scene of an accident in which another person has been injured or killed.

Some examples of a felony hit-and-run could include:

  • A driver striking a bicyclist who was crossing legally in a crosswalk, causing them to fall and break an arm, then fleeing the scene.
  • A driver operating while impaired by alcohol running a stop sign, striking a vehicle, causing serious injuries, and then leaving the scene of the crash.

California hit-and-run penalties

Violating California Vehicle Code 20002 is a misdemeanor offense. This crime is punishable by:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

Violating California Vehicle Code 20001, though called felony hit-and-run, is actually a “wobbler” offense in this state. This means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case.

If charged as a misdemeanor, this crime is punishable by:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000

If charged as a felony, this crime is punishable by:

  • Up to four years in state prison
  • A fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000

Additionally, a person charged with any of these crimes may face probation when their sentence is complete (or probation in lieu of jail time) as well as community service requirements.

Call the Law Offices of Grahan Donath

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a hit-and-run offense, regardless of whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you and formulate a defense strategy. The goal is to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether. When you need help from an attormey, you can contact the Law Offices of Graham D. Donath, APC for a free consultation of your case or by calling (951) 667-5293.