What are the Steps to Take if I’m Accused of Hit and Run in California?
Have you been accused of committing either misdemeanor or felony hit and run in California? The team of experienced hit and run criminal defense lawyers at Martinian & Associates recommends that you never:
- Admit fault
- Make an official statement of any kind
- Speak to the police without an attorney present
Furthermore, the most important decision you can make after being accused of California hit and run is hiring the best criminal defense lawyer available – one with years of experience successfully handling such cases. Below we’ll review everything you need to know about what to do after a California hit and run car accident.
Important California Hit and Run Car Accident Information for Drivers
Let’s talk about what to do after getting involved in hit and run car accident. Were you at fault when you crashed into another car and, in the heat of the moment, fled the scene? Under the law, you made a mistake by not stopping to check on the individual, nor to exchange the appropriate contact information.
That said, given the stress and confusion that can transpire after a California car accident, it’s understandable that high-running emotions can cause even the most experienced driver to make such a mistake in the heat of the moment.
If you’ve been accused of committing hit and run while in a state of confusion or panic, there are certain steps you should (and should not) take to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved parties. Let’s look at what to do when you’ve been accused of hit and run, discuss how California law classifies such a crime, and review how a criminal defense lawyer from Martinian & Associates can help protect your rights and prevent you from unnecessary incrimination.
What is a Hit and Run Car Accident?
A hit and run is a car accident or other type of motor vehicle collision which entails one of the drivers (typically the one responsible for the crash) leaving the scene of the incident. Furthermore, the driver who flees the scene fails to identify him or herself or exchange relevant contact and insurance information. In many cases, hit and runs involve the at-fault driver causing either property damage or a physical injury/fatality to the other driver or passenger(s).
In California, hit and runs can be classified as either felonies or misdemeanors.
What is the Difference Between a Hit and Run Felony and Misdemeanor?
California Vehicle Code § 20002 is the statute that defines the crime of misdemeanor hit and run. Section (a) of said Vehicle Code states:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault.
In other words, if you’ve committed a hit and run that only involves property damage – whether to the other vehicle or perhaps to the roadway, a mailbox, a pet, or another piece of land – California law classifies the crime as a misdemeanor.
California Vehicle Code § 20001 is the statute that defines the crime of felony hit and run. Said Vehicle Code states:
… the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident…
In other words, if you’ve committed hit and run and the car accident or motor vehicle collision injured or killed another person, California law classifies the crime as a felony.
The felony classification of a hit and run applies regardless of the severity of the injury caused to another driver, passenger, or pedestrian. In other words, whether your hit and run crash caused catastrophic injuries such as concussion, paralysis, or TBI (traumatic brain injury), or the collision merely resulted in minor scrapes and bruises to the other party, the incident is still technically considered a felony.
What are the Penalties for California Hit and Run Car Accidents?
Penalties for California hit and run can vary depending on whether your crime was considered a misdemeanor or felony. Moreover, whether you hire an experienced and proven criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court can have a major impact on the type of penalty you might receive.
Some of the typical hit and run penalties for California drivers are outlined below.
Common penalties for misdemeanor hit and run in California:
- Up to three years’ probation
- Six months to one year in county jail
- A maximum fine of between $1,000 and $10,000
- Restitution to the victim
- Two points on your driving record
Common penalties for felony hit and run in California:
- A maximum fine of between $1,000 and $10,000
- Up to four years in California state prison (with the maximum four-year sentence typically being applied if the victim was killed or suffered a serious injury)
- Restitution to the victim
In some hit and run car accidents, the prosecutor may attempt to charge a driver with both a misdemeanor and felony count.
What are Some Common Hit and Run Scenarios?
Hit and runs can occur under varying circumstances, with a driver often causing such an accident through any number of scenarios:
- Striking a pedestrian and fleeing the scene
- Causing a car accident that injures the other driver and fleeing the scene
- Driving while under the influence and striking a parked car or piece of property and fleeing the scene
- Driving while under the influence and not realizing that you have struck a parked vehicle, pedestrian, or caused a fender bender and fleeing the scene
What to Do (and Not Do) After Committing California Hit and Run
If you’ve caused a car accident, there are certain steps you should always take to ensure you do not end up being charged with hit and run. Those steps include:
- Never leave the scene of an accident without exchanging all relevant information (license and registration, insurance coverage, etc.)
- Identify any witnesses to the car crash and be sure to collect their contact information (take pictures of driver’s licenses with your cell phone, etc.)
- Take pictures and videos of the scene of the accident (this includes property damage as well as any physical injuries you or the other parties may have sustained)
- Call the police and file an official accident report
Moreover, if you’re injured in a car accident, it’s always recommended that you undergo an immediate medical examination by a licensed physician. Doing so not only helps ensure that your health and well-being are preserved, but it can also be essential documentation in the event of a personal injury lawsuit seeking to recover damages for things like pain and suffering, hospital bills, lost wages, emotional trauma, and more.
If you do flee the scene of a car accident – for whatever reason – and are accused of hit and run, there are certain steps you should take.
- Firstly, never admit fault or make any sort of official statement.
- Do not speak with the police without having an experienced hit and run criminal defense lawyer present.
- In that same respect, upon being accused of hit and run, it’s critical that you hire the best lawyer specializing in such criminal defense matters to handle your representation.
What are Some Common Defenses for Hit and Run Car Accidents?
At Martinian & Associates, our team of criminal defense lawyers has extensive experience representing California drivers accused of hit and run. We’ll aggressively defend your rights under the law, working tirelessly to ensure you are treated fairly and justice is served.
Some common legal defense strategies that may be used by a Martinian & Associates hit and run lawyer include:
- No injury occurred to the other driver/pedestrian
- The scene of the accident presented an unsafe condition for you, the driver
- The accused individual was not the actual driver responsible for the accident
- Submitting your past driving record and criminal history as a supporting argument
Furthermore, having a Martinian & Associates hit and run criminal defense lawyer fighting in your corner can help ensure that your charges are minimized. For example, in order for a prosecutor to prove that a hit and run rises to the level of a felony, four aspects often need to be demonstrated:
- The defendant was involved in a motor vehicle accident as a driver
- Said accident resulted in either injury or death to another person
- The defendant knew (or should have reasonably known) that he or she was involved in an accident which caused an injury or fatality to another person
- The defendant willfully failed to perform one (or more) of the following duties of care under the law:
- To immediately stop at the scene of an accident
- To provide reasonable assistance to another injured party (driver, passenger, or pedestrian)
- To give the injured victim or any law enforcement officer at the scene of an accident his or her personal contact information
The aforementioned term “willfully” is defined under the law as an act committed on purpose, but not necessarily with intent to break the law, harm another person, or gain any type of advantage.
Been Accused of California Hit and Run? Contact the Best Defense Lawyers Today
If you or someone you care about has been accused of felony or misdemeanor hit and run, you’re likely undergoing a significant amount of anxiety and stress. But the Martinian & Associates hit and run defense team of attorneys is here for free and confidential consultations 24-hours-a-day via 323-850-1900. We’ll review the facts of your case, answer any and all questions you may have, and devise the most aggressive and precise legal defense strategy.
Martinian & Associates is a leading Los Angeles law firm with over 25 years of criminal defense and hit and run experience. When you’re accused of a crime, we’re here to protect your rights.
Reach out to a member of our team today to learn more. We’ve helped California drivers like you accused of hit and run get fair justice under the law, and we’re dedicated to fighting aggressively on your behalf.