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Hit and Run

If you have been charged with hit and run while driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be facing extremely severe penalties including monetary fines and incarceration.  There are two (2) types of hit and run and each can be charged along with a DUI: a violation of California Vehicle Code 20001 will be brought when the hit and run results in physical injury, and a violation of California Vehicle Code 20002 will be brought when the hit and run results in property damage.  

If you are charged with a violation of either statute, it is important to keep a few key points in mind:

  • You can be charged with a hit and run even if you were not responsible for causing the accident. Leaving the scene of an accident, even when the other driver is 100% at fault, can result in a hit and run.  Make sure that if you are involved in any accident, you provide the relevant information to the other party. 
  • Any time someone is injured during an accident you are involved in, you must provide your information. Even if the injured party was a passenger in your vehicle, you must provide the appropriate information.  This remains true even if they do not intend to file a claim against you.
  • If you left the scene of an accident for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment and you did not provide the required information before leaving, you will likely be excepted from the hit and run rule.

If you were involved in a DUI and/or Hit and Run, it is extremely important that you consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.  Our experienced defense team at the San Diego DUI Attorney has been arguing on behalf of San Diego defendants for nearly 30 years.  We have the skills and resources to provide your case with the attention it deserves.  We encourage you to contact our office today for your FREE consultation.  

Misdemeanor Hit and Run – Vehicle Code 20002

Like many California offenses, a hit and run can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

The elements of a misdemeanor hit and run are as follows:

  1. The driver willfully left the site of an accident without identifying themselves to the other parties involved;
  2. When someone else’s property was damaged as a result of the accident; and
  3. The driver had knowledge that someone else’s property was damaged as a result of the accident.

As will be discussed later, notice that a misdemeanor hit and run is concerned with property damage rather than physical injury.  If a physical injury is involved, the charge will be brought as a felony.   

It comes as a surprise to many that this law is applicable even when the other party is responsible for the accident.  For example, if you are rear-ended and the other party is clearly at fault, you can still be charged with a hit and run if you leave the scene without identifying yourself.  Similarly, the rule applies regardless of the extent of the damage.  Even in cases where only minor damage results, you still have a duty to stop.  Also, note that the damage does not have to be to another vehicle, any property will suffice.  For example, a single-car accident where the driver hits a fence or building, could result in a hit and run.

Misdemeanor Hit and Run – Penalties

The penalties for a misdemeanor hit and run can be quite serious.  Depending on the severity of the accident, you could face up to six (6) months jail time, and/or up to $1,000 in fines. 

Misdemeanor Hit and Run – Defenses

There are actually several defenses that can often be argued in hit and run cases.  Some include the following:

  • There was no damage to the other party’s property.
  • The driver was not aware of the accident or the damage.
  • Someone else caused the accident.

Hit and Run – Duties

There are really three (3) duties California law imposes if you are part of an accident that results in property damage.

  1. You must stop your car right away; and
  2. You must give your address and name to the other parties involved; and
  3. If the other parties are present at the scene, if requested, you must provide your licenses and registration information.

Additionally, if you were not the registered owner of the car you were using, you must provide the owner’s address and name.  Failure to comply with any of these duties can result in a hit and run.

Remember, these duties still apply even if the other driver was at fault for the accident.   

What to do if the Other Party is not present at the scene:

People often wonder how they can comply with these duties if the other party is not present at the scene of the accident.  This situation arises quite frequently; for example, when a driver hits a parked vehicle.  In these situations, you must do the following:

  • Leave a note on the vehicle:
    • The note should be placed in a location that the owner will easily find, and should provide a brief summary of the accident. Further, it must provide your name and address. 
  • Contact the police:
    • After leaving the note, you should immediately contact the local police to report the accident.

Hit and Run Defined – California Vehicle Code 20002

As indicated above, there are three (3) elements to a hit and run:

  1. The driver willfully left the site of an accident without identifying themselves to the other parties involved;
  2. When someone else’s property was damaged as a result of the accident; and
  3. The driver had knowledge that someone else’s property was damaged as a result of the accident.

Note that this crime requires bad intentions on the part of the driver.  The driver must choose to flee the scene while knowing that they caused damage to someone else’s property.  As such, there are a number of defenses that are applicable to hit and run charges.

Hit and Run – Defenses

As noted above, there are three (3) main defenses that are commonly applicable in hit and run cases:

There was no damage to the other party’s property.

In many cases, only one car is damaged as the result of any accident.  Sometimes, only the driver at fault for the accident’s car is damaged.  If you were in an accident, and only your car was damaged, the offense of hit and run is not applicable.  The same is true if you collide with someone else’s property.  If their property is not damaged, you cannot be convicted of hit and run.

The driver was not aware of the accident or the damage.

Remember, the offense of hit and run requires the fleeing driver to act willfully.  It is entirely possible that you were involved in an accident that you were not aware of.  If this is the case, you can not be guilty of a hit and run.  Keep in mind, if the resulting damage is extensive, this will not likely be a strong defense.  However, it can often be effective in cases where property is damaged, or in minor parking-lot collisions.  

Someone else caused the accident.

It is common for people to allow their friends and family to borrow their cars.  Less commonly, vehicles are also stolen.  In many cases, witnesses observe the car involved in an accident, but not necessarily the driver of the car.  If the prosecution cannot prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were driving the car at the time of the accident, you should not be convicted of a hit and run. 

Hit and Run – Misdemeanor Penalties

The penalties for violating Vehicle Code 20002 are as follows:

  • A maximum of six (6) months jail time;
  • A maximum of three (3) years probation;
  • A maximum of $1,000 in fines and/or penalties;
  • Two (2) points on your driving record; and/or
  • Restitution for damaged property.

Civil Compromise – California Penal Code 1377

In some cases, if you fully reimburse the other party for their damaged property, the criminal charges may be able to be dismissed.  This is known as a “civil compromise”.  A civil compromise can be applicable in misdemeanor cases where a civil remedy is available to the injured party.  In hit and run cases, where no aggravating factors exist, and the defendant’s prior record is clean, a civil compromise might be available.  This will be determined at the discretion of the judge.  If the judge does allow a civil compromise, the charges will be dismissed once the victim is fully reimbursed.   

Felony Hit and Run – California Vehicle Code 20001

As noted above, the distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony hit and run, is whether physical injury results.  As such, the elements of each are quite similar:

  1. The driver willfully left the site of an accident without identifying themselves to the other parties involved;
  2. When someone else was physically injured as a result of the accident; and
  3. The driver had knowledge that someone was physically injured as a result of the accident.

Often times, an accident can result in both physical injury and property damage.  In such cases, the defendant can be charged with both felony and misdemeanor hit and run.  We typically see this in cases where the property damage is obvious, but the physical injury is minor, or more difficult to prove. 

Interestingly, the name “felony hit and run” is quite misleading.  A “felony” hit and run can actually be brought as a felony or a misdemeanor.  The actual charge filed will be determined by the prosecutor. 

Felony Hit and Run – Penalties

When actually brought as a felony, the penalties for a hit and run are as follows:

  • A monetary fine: minimum of $1,000, and maximum of $10,000;
  • A state prison sentence of up to three (3) years;
    • Up to four (4) years if serious injury or death results.

Hit and Run While Driving Under the Influence

Usually, a DUI will result in a misdemeanor charge.  However, when aggravating factors exist, they are often charged as felonies.  Some of these factors include:

  • Injury to another individual;
  • Failing to remain at the scene of an accident;
  • Property damage.

As you can see, at least two of the factors will always exist if a hit and run occurs.  As such, a hit and run can be thought of as an aggravating factor with respect to DUIs. 

Keep in mind, that if you are under the influence while you commit a hit and run, you will likely be charged with two (2) separate crimes (DUI and Hit and Run).  Therefore, in addition to the penalties discussed above, you could also face the penalties for an aggravated DUI.  As with any DUI incident, the sentence you receive will ultimately be at the discretion of the court and a number of factors will come into play.  Common penalties might include the following:

For a Misdemeanor DUI that Causes Injury

  • A monetary fine of between $350 and $5,000;
  • A probationary period of between three (3) and five (5) years;
  • A driver’s license suspension of between one (1) and three (3) years; and/or
  • Restitution to any injured parties.

For a Felony DUI that Causes Injury

  • A monetary fine of between $1,000 and $5,000;
  • A jail/prison sentence of up to four (4) years;
    • Additional time is serious bodily injury occurs;
  • A driver’s license suspension of up to five (5) years;
  • A “strike” for purposes of California’s “3 Strike” law.

Contact the San Diego DUI Attorney today for your FREE DUI Consultation.

At the San Diego DUI Attorney, we do not believe in diagnosing your case over the phone.  We value meeting each client face-to-face, and conducting an in person consultation.  If you have been charged with a DUI and/or Hit and Run, contact the San Diego DUI Attorney today.

Call us today at 619-535-7150 for your FREE DUI Consultation.

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