Hit and Run (Cal. Vehicle Code Section 20002) accidents are the result of one party causing damage to another party’s property or person and leaving the scene before producing the proper driver documentation. Hit and Run charges can be both misdemeanors and felonies, depending on the seriousness of the accident. In California, the driver of any motor vehicle that has been involved in an accident or collision, regardless of the level of seriousness or extent of injury, must stop, find the owner of the damaged property and produce his or her driver documentation. Failing to do so could result in criminal charges for California Hit and Run. California Hit and Run charges can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the seriousness of the accident, extent of damage, and defendant’s past criminal record.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
For minor traffic accidents, such as fender benders and other minimal property damage with no physical injuries, a misdemeanor charge is the most likely assessment. According to California Law, a Hit and Run Misdemeanor is defined as, “a failure to immediately stop at the scene of a motor vehicle accident resulting in property damage.”
Felony Hit and Run
When Hit and Run results in bodily injury or death, a felony will be charged. According to California Law, a Hit and Run Felony is defined as, “a failure to immediately stop at the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving death or permanent injury to any person(s) associated with the accident.”
Hit and Run Vehicle Codes
Calif. Vehicle Code Section 20002: When an accident results only in property damage (including motor vehicles), driver must stop and locate owner or person in charge and exchange driver documentation. If owner of damaged property cannot be located, the driver is not permitted to leave the scene of the accident until the following actions have been completed:
a) Leave a note with facts surrounding the case and driver documentation information;
b) Report the accident to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or local police.
Calif. Vehicle Code Section 20001, 20003, and 20004: Any accident that involves injury or death mandates the driver to perform all actions included in Section 20002 plus render reasonable assistance to the injured party or parties.
The California Law regarding Hit and Run has no exceptions. The types of accidents that are eligible for Hit and Run charges range from simple fender benders on parked, unoccupied vehicles to accidents involving death or serious injury.
Examples of Hit and Run accidents:
- Car accident or other moving motor vehicle collision
- Bicycle or pedestrian accident
- Damage to parked or unoccupied motor vehicle or property
- Accidents occurring on your property or in front of your home
- Collisions that you believe are not your fault
- Accidents involving death or serious bodily injury
- Damage to property by your vehicle when you are not the driver
The Importance of Driver Documentation
The best way to avoid a California Hit and Run charge is to stop after an accident or collision and immediately exchange your driver documentation. If the damaged property is unoccupied, leaving a visible note with your contact information and facts surrounding the case is acceptable. In all cases, the police must be notified!
Driver Documentation includes:
- Your Full name
- Valid driver’s license number and state of issuance
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- Insurance carrier’s name, address, telephone number and policy number
Hit and Run Penalties
Depending on whether a hit and run misdemeanor or hit & run felony is charged, penalties for hit and run range from no jail time (plus fines and restitution) to one year in jail and, with more serious cases, time in California state prison. We are experienced in defending California Hit and Run cases. For first time offenders, our clients rarely serve jail time. In some cases, we work out an agreement with the victim, Judge, and District Attorney, called a “civil compromise”, which results in a dismissal of the defendant’s criminal proceedings.