9 Things You Need To Know About “Hit & Run” Accident Charges

In this post I am going to explain (9) important things you need to know about hit & run car accident charges in California:

Let’s get started…

Before we get started its important to understand that there are two general types of hit-and-run crimes in California.

#1. Vehicle Code 20002 vc applies to accidents involving only damage to property.

#2. Vehicle Code 20001 vc applies to vehicle accidents that involve injury or death.

Now that you understand the difference between the two hit and run vehicle codes lets go over your required responsibilities after an accident.

What Are The Requirements Of The Driver After An Accident?

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

Under Vehicle Code 20002 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.

The location shall not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists1.

Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault.

Additionally, the driver shall do the following:

1

Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle involved.

2

Upon locating the driver of any other vehicle involved or the owner or person in charge of any damaged property, upon being requested, present his or her driver’s license, and vehicle registration, to that person.

3

The information presented shall include the current residence address of the driver and of the registered owner.

If the registered owner of an involved vehicle is present at the scene, he or she shall also, upon request, present his or her driver’s license information, if available, or other valid identification to the other involved parties.

What If The Vehicle Is Parked and Empty?

4

Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof.

You shall without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred or if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.

Does Not Matter What Type Of Property You Damage?

It does not matter what type of property was damaged.

For example, the defendant may have run into a gate, mailbox, someone’s pet, or another car.

The misdemeanor hit and run law require a defendant to perform the duties under the law when the defendant damaged any type of property.

Duty Applies Regardless Of Fault For Accident

The driver of a vehicle must perform the duties listed in California Vehicle Code Section 20002 regardless of who was injured and regardless of how or why the accident happened.

It does not matter if someone else caused the accident or if the accident was unavoidable.2

What Happens If You Fail to Stop & Identify Yourself?

5

If no one was injured as a result of the accident, but the accident caused property damage, then a defendant’s failure to stop and identify themselves may result in a misdemeanor charge pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 20002.3

Additional Requirements If There is an Injury or Death

  • To provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident4.
  • The driver must then also, without unnecessary delay, notify either the police department of the city where the accident happened or the local headquarters of the California Highway Patrol if the accident happened in an unincorporated area.
Duty Applies To Injured Passengers In Defendant's Vehicle

The duties above apply to the injured passengers in the defendant’s car.

Therefore, if a defendant driver flees the accident scene after causing injuries to the passengers in his/her car, he may be guilty of this offense.5

How Does The Prosecutor Prove A Hit & Run?

The prosecutor must prove the following to be convicted of misdemeanor hit & run under vehicle code 20002.

  • While driving, the defendant was involved in a vehicle accident6
  • The accident caused damage to someone else’s property;
  • You knew that another persons property had been damaged or that it was probable that another persons property was damaged.
  • The defendant willfully failed to perform one or more of the duties mentioned above7.
Examples Of Misdemeanor Hit & Run
  • Driver hit a parked car, causing serious property damage to the car and fleeing the scene.
  • Driver hit a police car that was parked to create a road block, causing property damage, and quickly fled.

The Prosecutor Must also Prove the Following to be Convicted of Hit & Run With Injury

  • The accident caused the death of or permanent, serious injury to someone else8;
  • The defendant knew that he/she had been involved in an accident that injured another person, or knew from the nature of the accident that it was probable that another person had been injured9.

Overview Of Hit & Run With Injury – VC 20001

Under California Vehicle Code Sections 20001 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 and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 2000310

Consequences If You Fail To Stop And There Is An Injury Or Death

If the accident results in an injury to – or death of – another person and the driver fails to stop and identify themselves, they may be charged with a felony under Vehicle Code Section 20001.

Examples Of Hit & Run With Injury

Driver hit a pedestrian causing serious injury and fled from the scene because he was driving with a previously suspended license for a DUI.

Failure To Stop Following Accident Resulting In Minor Injury:

If the prosecution is unable to prove that the injury suffered was permanent and/or serious, the offense may still be charged as a misdemeanor offense pursuant to Vehicle Code, 20001(b)(1).

This is a lesser included offense that is charged when a felony hit and run results in a minor injury rather than in death or serious injury pursuant to California’s Vehicle Code section 20001.

Defenses To Hit and Run Charges

Below our hit and run defense attorneys explain defenses to both misdemeanor and felony hit and run charges.

Only The Defendants Car Was Damaged

If only the defendant’s car was damaged in the collision this offense was not violated, because one of the elements of the offense is that someone else’s car/property other than the defendant was damaged.

The Defendant Was Not Driving

If it was not the defendant who was involved in the accident, such as in a situation, when the defendant’s car was stolen and the car thief caused the accident, the defendant will not be charged with the offense.

This defense is also available for felony hit and run charges.

The Accident Caused Injury Only To The Defendant

If the only person who was injured as a result of the accident was the defendant, vehicle code 20001 vc was not violated, because one of the elements of the offense is that someone other than the defendant sustained a serious injury or death.

You Lacked Knowledge Of The Accident

One of the elements that a prosecutor has to prove is that you knew that you had been involved in an accident that injured another person, or knew from the nature of the accident that it was probable that another person had been injured.

If you did not know that you had been involved in an accident, this is a defense to the crime.

What Is An Example Of This Defense?

This could happen if a defendant was involved in the accident, as explained above, his/her car did not collide with another car; rather, the defendant’s driving contributed to an accident without them being aware of it.

Similarly, if the accident was so minor that the defendant had no reason to suspect that another person was hurt.

Penalties For Hit & Run

Penalties for misdemeanor hit & run include the following:

Penalties For Vehicle Code 20002

Penalties Misdemeanor
Fine Up to $1,000 + penalty assessments
County Jail Up to 6 months

Penalties For Vehicle Code 20001 VC

The degree of punishment depends on whether the accident has caused a serious injury or death or merely a minor injury.

It also depends on whether the offense is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, which is usually determined based on factors such as defendant’s criminal history and the seriousness of the offense.

 

Penalties Misdemeanor Felony
Fine Up to $10,000 Up to $10,000
Possible Restitution If the injuries to the victim were made worse by your leaving the scene11 If the injuries to the victim were made worse by your leaving the scene12
DMV Two points on your driving record Two points on your record13
Jail Up to 1 year in county jail 16 month , 2 years or 3 years in state prison14

What If A Serious Injury/Death Occured?

In the event of serious injury or death that is charged as a felony, a defendant may face up to 2, 3, or 4 years in the state prison, in addition to a fine between $1,000 and $10,00015.

Sentencing Enhancements

A conviction of a hit and run may be enhanced if the defendant committed vehicular manslaughter as a felony.

This means that if the prosecution is able to prove the additional allegation that the defendant fled the scene of the accident after committing vehicular manslaughter in violation of Vehicle Code section 20001(c), the defendant’s sentence will be enhanced.

What Is The Additional Penalty For VC 20001(c)?

As a result of the enhancement, the defendant can face an additional term of imprisonment of 5 years in the state prison pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 20001(c).

In order to prove this additional allegation, the prosecution has to show that the defendant knew that he/she had been involved in an accident that injured another person, or knew from the nature of the accident that it was probable that another person had been injured; and that the defendant willfully fled the scene of the accident.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs (DUI):

If a defendant committed a hit and run while being intoxicated, he/she may be also charged with a DUI under the California Vehicle Code 23152(a) and Vehicle Code 23152(b).

Information On the Criminal Court Process

Next Steps

If you have been arrested for a hit & run and would like to learn more about what attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why it is important to have an attorney represent you.

If you are ready to discuss a pending hit and run case and would like to speak to an attorney16 please contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Footnotes

  1. The duty to immediately stop means that the driver must stop his or her vehicle as soon as reasonably possible under the circumstances. Immediately Stopped Defined. People v. Odom (1937) 19 Cal.App.2d 641, 646–647 [66 P.2d 206]. []
  2. Duty Applies Regardless of Fault for Accident — People v. Scofield (1928) 203 Cal. 703, 708 [265 P. 914]. []
  3. Source., Vehicle Code 20002, available at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=20002.&lawCode=VEH []
  4. To provide “reasonable assistance” means the driver must determine what assistance, if any, the injured person needs and make a reasonable effort to see that such assistance is provided, either by the driver or someone else. Reasonable assistance includes transporting anyone who has been injured for medical treatment or arranging the transportation for such treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if an injured person requests transportation. The driver is not required to provide assistance that is unnecessary or that is already being provided by someone else. However, the requirement that the driver provides assistance is not excused merely because bystanders are on the scene or could provide assistance. Duty to Render Assistance. People v. Scofield (1928) 203 Cal. 703, 708 [265P. 914]; People v. Scheer (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 1009, 1027 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 676]. []
  5. Duty Applies to Injured Passenger in Defendant’s Vehicle. People v. Kroncke (1999) 70 Cal.App.4th 1535, 1546 [83 Cal.Rptr.2d 493]. []
  6. To be “involved” in an accident means to be connected with the accident in a natural or logical manner. Involved Defined. People v. Bammes (1968) 265 Cal.App.2d 626, 631 [71 Cal.Rptr. 415]; People v. Sell (1950) 96 Cal.App.2d 521, 523 [215 P.2d 771]. It is not necessary for the driver’s vehicle to collide with another vehicle or person. It just means that your driving was a factor in, or contributed to, the accident. []
  7. Someone commits an act “willfully” when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage. It simply means that you meant to do what you did, or you meant to refrain from acting when you had a duty to act. Willful Failure to Perform Duty. People v. Crouch (1980) 108 Cal.App.3d Supp. 14, 21–22 [166 Cal.Rptr. 818]. []
  8. A permanent, serious injury is one that permanently impairs the function or causes the loss of any organ or body part. Permanent, Serious Injury Defined. California Vehicle Code, § 20001(d) — Duty to Stop at Scene of Accident: (d) As used in this section, “permanent, serious injury” means the loss or permanent impairment of function of a bodily member or organ. []
  9. Knowledge of Accident and Injury. People v. Holford (1965) 63 Cal.2d 74, 79–80 [45 Cal.Rptr. 167, 403 P.2d 423]; People v. Carter (1966) 243 Cal.App.2d 239, 241 [52 Cal.Rptr. 207]; People v. Hamilton (1978) 80 Cal.App.3d 124, 133–134 [145 Cal.Rptr. 429]. []
  10. Vehicle Code 20003 (a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall also give his or her name, current residence address, the names and current residence addresses of any occupant of the driver’s vehicle injured in the accident, the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and the name and current residence address of the owner to the person struck or the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, and shall give the information to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident. The driver also shall render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including transporting, or making arrangements for transporting, any injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if that transportation is requested by any injured person. (b) Any driver or injured occupant of a driver’s vehicle subject to the provisions of subdivision (a) shall also, upon being requested, exhibit his or her driver’s license, if available, or, in the case of an injured occupant, any other available identification, to the person struck or to the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, and to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident., available at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=20003.&lawCode=VEH []
  11. People v. Escobar, (App. 6 Dist. 1991) 235 Cal.App.3d 1504 []
  12. People v. Escobar, (App. 6 Dist. 1991) 235 Cal.App.3d 1504 []
  13. California Vehicle Code 12810 VC []
  14. California Vehicle Code 20001 VC []
  15. California Vehicle Code 20001 VC []
  16. Our hit and run defense attorney’s practice law in the following jurisdictions. Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Glendale, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Studio City, Burbank, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Palmdale, Lancaster, Pasadena, Alhambra, Malibu, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Orange County, San Bernadino County, []