A hit and run incident occurs once every 18 minutes in Los Angeles, according to a report by NBC 4 LA’s Investigation team. The frequency of hit and run incidents leads many people to believe that hit and run is not a serious crime in California. However, that is simply not true. In fact, depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be charged with a felony for hit and run in California.
What is Hit and Run? (CVC 20001)
If you are involved in a traffic accident in California, you are required to pull safely out of traffic and immediately stop. If the incident involved damage to a parked car or property, you are legally required to make an effort to locate the owner of the vehicle or property and notify him or her of the collision.
Under California Vehicle Code Section 20001 and 20002, you could be charged with hit and run if:
- You leave the scene of the accident without first identifying yourself to any other party involved, and
- Another person’s property was damaged or another person was injured or died as a result of the accident
Is Hit and Run a Felony or a Misdemeanor? (CVC 20002)
Hit and run is a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the case. You could be charged with misdemeanor hit and run under Vehicle Code 20002 if:
- The accident was minor and the other driver was at fault, but you left the scene of the accident
- You were not involved in the accident but you may have been the cause of the accident, and you left the scene, or
- Your actions caused damage to another person’s property and you left the scene of the accident
So, how could you face felony charges for hit and run?
When Can Hit and Run Be Charged as a Felony? (CVC 20001)
The main difference between misdemeanor hit and run and felony hit and run is injury to another person. If another person suffered injury or death as a result of the accident and you left the scene, you could face felony hit and run charges under CVC 20001. It does not matter how minor you think the collision may have been or whether someone else was at fault.
CVC 20001 separates injuries into two categories:
- Permanent, serious injury or death
One of the elements of felony hit and run under CVC 20001 is that you knew or reasonably should have known that injury occurred during your vehicle collision. It can be difficult to prove that you should have known a minor injury (such as bruises or cuts) occurred. Thus, prosecutors may choose to charge you with a misdemeanor for hit and run if the incident resulted in minor injuries.
However, if another party involved in the vehicle collision suffered serious, permanent injury or death, you will likely face felony hit and run charges. A “serious, permanent injury” is defined as a loss or permanent impairment to one’s body.
Punishment for Hit and Run in California
Misdemeanor hit and run is punishable by up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000. In addition, you face the following penalties:
- 2 points added to your driving record by the Department of Motor Vehicles
- Up to 3 years of informal probation
- Restitution to the victim
Felony hit and run carries more harsh consequences. A felony hit and run conviction is punishable by:
- 16 months, 2 or 3 years in prison for a hit and run resulting in an injury; or up to 4 years in prison for a hit and run resulting in “serious injury” or death
- Fines of up to $10,000
- 2 points added to your driving record by the DMV
A felony hit and run conviction could also allow the victim or the victim’s family to sue you for damages.
Contact the Hit and Run Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or someone you love has been accused of hit and run, you should contact an experienced hit and run defense attorney at Wallin & Klarich immediately. Our skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys have been successfully defending clients accused of hit and run for more than 40 years. We can help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find an experienced Wallin & Klarich hit and run defense lawyer available near you no matter where you work or live.
Call our law firm today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We get through this together.