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Hit and Run

As hit-and-run accidents become more common in the state, criminal penalties for such offenses are growing more stringent than ever. At Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we operate under the belief that only competent legal counsel can ensure favorable outcomes in your case. Our attorneys are available to assist anyone in Los Angeles who has been charged and needs legal representation in matters involving, among other things, DUI offenses, and driving-related crimes.

An Overview of California Hit and Run

A California hit-and-run crime can be tried as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The provisions for sentencing a felony hit-and-run offense are outlined in California VC 20001. California VC 20002, on the other hand, specifies the provisions for a misdemeanor hit-and-run crime. Both rules apply to all California hit-and-run cases, regardless of who was at fault, the nature of the injuries, or the number of damages caused.

Misdemeanor hit-and-run crimes focus on the damages caused to property, whereas felony hit-and-run crimes focus on personal injuries. If you left the scene of the accident without identifying yourself to the other person, it could be considered a hit-and-run crime and be charged as a misdemeanor. If you caused damage to another person's property in an auto accident, you could also face legal action under California VC 20002.

After being involved in an auto crash that causes property damage, you are required to follow specific guidelines under VC 20002. You are expected to pull over right away and give the other driver your identification. If the other party is present at the scene of the accident, you should also provide them with your driving license and vehicle registration upon request. If you are pulled over in a vehicle that is not your own, you should provide the details of the registered owner and their contact information.

Failure to provide identification could result in a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge. If you left the accident scene, a prosecutor, judge, or jury could consider your conduct as showing a disregard for other individuals' safety. If the owner of a particular piece of property (like a parked vehicle) isn't present when you hit it, you can leave a written note behind with your contact information and a summary of what happened. Don't forget to call the law enforcement agency or the California Highway Patrol if the incident occurred in an unincorporated location.

Although it is not required by VC 20002 to provide the other individual with your insurance details, you can do so along with your vehicle's identification number. According to VC 16025, this practice is required for all vehicles involved in collisions. This law's violation is considered a California infraction, subject to a hefty fine not exceeding $250.

A felony hit-and-run is defined under VC 20001 as an act of hastily fleeing the scene of an accident where someone else was injured or killed as a result of your action. If you leave the scene of an accident where there was significant damage to property but no injuries, your situation counts as a misdemeanor hit-and-run offense. Even if the other individual were entirely at fault for the accident, you would still be accused of a felony hit-and-run offense.

According to VC 20001, you should comply with certain requirements to avoid being charged with a felony hit-and-run crime. Consider immediately pulling over at the crash scene and sharing your details with the parties involved or the responding law enforcement officers. The details should include your name, the name of the vehicle's owner, the vehicle's registration number, and your current address.

Provisions of California VC 20001 mandate that you assist anyone who has been hurt in getting the medical care they need. You can provide reasonable assistance by calling for transportation or taking the injured victims for medical attention. Also, if asked by the parties involved or the law enforcement officers on the scene, you should provide them with your driving license.

Notify the local law enforcement agency or California Highway Patrol explaining your position and providing your identification information if there aren't any law enforcement officers on the crash scene. Still, you have given your identity to the other individual.

The phrase "reasonable assistance" in this situation suggests that you've got to decide what kind of support is appropriate for the wounded party and either provide it yourself or have another person take care of it for you. While sharing your insurance details is not required under VC 20001, it is necessary to adhere to California VC 16025. Any violation of VC 16025 is considered an infringement subject to a $250 maximum fine.

Penalties for a Hit-and-Run Offense

A hit-and-run crime is likely to result in either felony or misdemeanor charges.

Misdemeanor Penalties

If you are found guilty under VC 20002, you could be required to pay restitution to the victim, informal probation for a maximum of 3 years, and a 6-month jail sentence. In addition to the punishments imposed by the court, you will be required to pay a hefty fine of no more than $1,000. The California DMV will likely add 2 points to your record.

If you're being accused of a misdemeanor hit-and-run for the first time, you could be eligible for a "civil compromise." You shouldn't be facing any accusations of drug or alcohol use for this rule to apply to your situation. The court would drop the misdemeanor hit-and-run case if you settle the damages of other parties involved under a civil compromise. This right is defined under California PC 1377.

Felony Penalties

California VC 20001 specifies two sentence options for felony hit-and-run offenses. Accidents resulting in minor injuries are subject to the first sentencing scheme, whereas those leading to serious or permanent harm or death are subject to the second option. You could be charged with a wobbler for a felony hit-and-run depending on the specifics of the case and your criminal record.

Cases of hit-and-runs that result in less serious or temporary injuries are subject to the following penalties:

  • If your case is reduced to a misdemeanor, you face a maximum of one year in jail.
  • Restitution.
  • A hefty fine between $1,000 and $10,000.
  • A prison term of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years (if the crime counts as a felony).
  • Two points will be added to your record by the DMV.

Hit-and-run resulting in significant or permanent injury to the body or death is a felony punishable by the following punitive penalties:

  • If the charges are lowered to a misdemeanor, the jail sentence could be as little as 90 days or as much as a year.
  • A hefty fine ranging from one thousand to ten thousand dollars.
  • 2, 3, or 4 years in prison for a felony-related offense.
  • You will receive two points on your record as required by the California DMV.

Elements of a Hit-and-Run Offense

The burden of proof for hit-and-run crimes, whether misdemeanors or felonies, falls on the prosecution. The factors to consider in a hit-and-run crime are described in California VC 20001 and 20002, respectively.

These include the following:

Elements for a Misdemeanor Crime

The prosecution team should demonstrate that you were operating a vehicle at the time the accident occurred and that it caused significant damage to property to convict you of a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge. Additionally, a California court would require evidence that you were aware that your conduct caused property damage to another person or that the damages were foreseen. The fact that you intentionally withheld your identifying information from the other parties could serve as the foundation of your case.

The word "willfully" denotes a perpetrator's deliberate disregard for the obligations outlined in California VC 20002 in a misdemeanor case. The concept doesn't necessarily suggest that you intended to gain something for yourself or infringe on the law intentionally. It serves as evidence that you were aware of your conduct in the legal industry.

Even if you partially played a part in perpetrating the duties listed in California VC 20002, you'll still be held accountable. For example, if you are pulled over at an accident scene but do not provide your name or other identifying information, you could be charged with a misdemeanor offense. If you engaged in this manner, the prosecutor would check your criminal background and drive record before filing charges.

Elements for a Felony Crime

Prosecutors use specific information to prove that a defendant infringed the provisions of California VC 20001. They should provide evidence connecting you to the incident that resulted in another person's death or injury. They should be able to prove that you knew about the incident and that your actions caused someone to be injured or killed. Additionally, they should demonstrate that you knew the accident was likely to occur and that you did it on purpose.

If a jury hears your case, they might all conclude from the facts and evidence offered by the prosecution that you were the one at fault when the accident occurred. Besides this, they may concur that you disregarded the duties outlined in VC 20001. To find you guilty, the jury must conclude that your actions directly caused the other person's injuries or death.

In this case, "involved" denotes a natural or logical connection to a specific accident. If your car and the victim's car made contact does not necessarily imply that you were engaged in a collision. For this word to apply to you, the accident or injuries sustained by the victim should have been caused by your driving.

Under Vehicle Code 20001 instances, the phrase "knowledge" is used by the prosecution to refer to your awareness of the accident. If they can demonstrate that you were aware of the accident, the penalties could depend on how serious the incident was or how much harm or death it resulted in.

Hence, "acting willingly" implies that the offender intended to commit the crime in question. The prosecution won't utilize this phrase to suggest that you intentionally broke the law or did it for your profit.

Legal Defenses to a California Hit-and-Run Charge

Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor hit-and-run allegations, your criminal defense attorney can present several defenses on your behalf in court. The legal defenses will be founded on the circumstances of your matter. These are a few examples of legal defenses that could be effective in court:

The Only Item Damaged In The Collision Was Your Car

This argument can be utilized to demonstrate your innocence because California misdemeanor charges hit-and-run prosecutions only consider property damage. According to VC 20002, you are not required to stop or provide your personal information when your car is the only item that has sustained damage.

You Were The Only Person Injured In The Accident

The requirements outlined under VC 20002 and 20001 wouldn't extend to your situation if you were the sole victim of the incident. These statutes specify that if you have not been hurt, you have to see that the aggrieved party receives medical attention. Your attorney could ask for the matter to be dropped or file charges against the person who caused your losses.

Someone Else Was Driving Your Vehicle

Your lawyer can demonstrate that your car had been stolen or that somebody else had access to it. You will need to submit to the court with the police record indicating that your vehicle is missing because the law mandates that you file one after your car is stolen.

A defense like this could be useful if there were no witnesses to the accident to identify you. You could also face charges if you made a fraudulent police statement to avert culpability for your actions.

No Knowledge

Prosecutors could cite "knowledge" as one of their legal arguments when prosecuting you with a misdemeanor or felony hit-and-run charge. Your attorney can contend that you were unaware of any injuries sustained from another person or that you had no cause to believe that somebody else had been hurt.

The other driver's confirmation that nobody was harmed when you provided your identification details to the other motorist or the fact that the accident happened behind you could persuade the court.

You Didn't Leave The Scene Or Purposefully Refuse To Provide Your Identifiable Details

There could be reasons why you shouldn't spend too much time at the scene of the accident. For example, you will be forced to depart the scene when an irate mob arrives if you hit a pedestrian. If the facts and evidence presented by your attorney support this claim, your charges could be dropped or reduced. The court will evaluate how hard you tried to follow VC 20002 and 20001.

California Hit-and-Run Related Offenses

The felony hit-and-run charges could be reduced to minor hit-and-run charges based on your attorney's arguments. Hence, if your attorney is successful in getting your misdemeanor charges dropped, the prosecutors could pursue further charges against you for engaging in a hit-and-run-related offense. Below are a few offenses they could consider:

Eluding a Police Officer

According to VC 2800.1, it is illegal to elude an officer while driving a car. If the prosecution cannot prove that you committed a hit-and-run, they could charge you with this offense. They need to provide evidence that the peace officer was operating a vehicle that either had unique markings, flashing lights, or a siren going off. This violation can result in maximum penalties of a thousand dollars or a one-year county prison sentence.

If you attempted to elude an officer while showing no regard for the well-being of others, you could be accused of felony reckless eluding. Intent to elude an officer, the officer's vehicle bearing distinguishing markings, or an officer wearing a distinguishing uniform are the components of this offense as defined by VC 2800.2. A Vehicle Code 2800.2 felony violation could result in a maximum fine of $1,000 or a sixteen-month, two-year, or three-year state prison term.


If the prosecution can show that you had been operating under the influence of alcohol or another drug at the time the accident happened, you could be charged with DUI regardless of a hit-and-run charge.

Your DUI violation could be prosecuted under VC 23152(a) or (b). Driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs is prohibited under Vehicle Code 23152(a), and driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08% or more is prohibited under Vehicle Code 23152(b).

Violations of Vehicle Codes 23152(a) and (b) are regarded as misdemeanors and are subject to fines of $390 to a thousand dollars. In addition, you can receive a 96-hour to a six-month jail term. If you are found guilty of DUI, the California Department of Motor Vehicles could impose a 6 to 10-month suspension or restriction on your driving license.

DUI Or Watson Murder

DUI murder charges could be brought for a hit-and-run crime that results in another person's death. If someone died because you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could be charged with Watson Murder, often known as DUI murder.

The prosecution must show that you had previously been convicted of DUI or that you received "Watson advisement" (training on the risks of DUI) before your conviction. The guidelines for handling Watson murder cases are highlighted in California PEN 187.

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter Or Vehicular Manslaughter Resulting From Drunk Driving

Under PC 192c, felony hit-and-run offenses that result in fatalities could be charged as vehicular manslaughter. The prosecutor could present evidence that you were either driving lawfully or in a legally but reckless manner.

Additionally, their proof should show that you intentionally caused the collision to get money. A vehicular manslaughter offense charged as a felony carries a maximum term of 10 years in state prison, while a misdemeanor conviction carries a sentence of 2 to 10 years in state prison.

Operating a Vehicle Without a License

According to VC 12500, driving a car without a legal license is considered a misdemeanor. Once you've been charged with hit-and-run, the prosecution may use the knowledge that you perpetrated a felony or misdemeanor hit-and-run to strengthen their case.

Depending on the details the responding officer provided, they could also prosecute you for driving while your license is expired or driving without one. A Vehicle Code 12500 violation carries a maximum $1,000 fine or six months in county jail as a penalty.

Causing Harm Or Death While Eluding a Police Officer

According to VC 2800.3, this offense constitutes eluding an officer in a car while also causing a fatality or significant bodily harm to another person. Vehicle Code 2800.1 and 2800.2 elements will still be used by the prosecution to support this charge. A violation of Vehicle Code 2800.3 is a misdemeanor that carries a punishment of up to one year in county jail. A felony Vehicle Code 2800.3 violation carries a maximum ten-year prison sentence as well as a maximum fine of $10,000.

Could I Still Be Prosecuted For a Hit-and-Run If There is Minimal Property Damage?

In Los Angeles, a hit-and-run is illegal not due to how much property was damaged or how many people were hurt, but rather because the individual who caused the harm or damage fled without undertaking the necessary precautions or leaving the necessary contact information. As a result, even though the damage is little, you could still be accused of a hit and run. Nevertheless, if there isn't much damage, the corresponding penalties and/or level of charges could be less severe.

Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

California law requires you to show that you are innocent through facts and evidence in both misdemeanor and felony hit-and-run cases. If you have legal counsel, the court might be persuaded to drop or lessen your charges. The defenses put forth by your attorney could also dissuade the prosecution from prosecuting you for other related offenses.

As a law firm, Leah Legal: Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer knows how distressing it is for motorists to be implicated in hit-and-run accidents. Our legal team is prepared to vigorously defend your rights in pursuit of the best outcomes. We seek to provide exceptional legal counsel and defense to clients in Los Angeles who have been charged with driving crimes including a hit-and-run. Call us today at 424-600-7164 for professional legal advice on how to proceed with your case.