Did You Have a Valid Reason to Leave the Scene? This is a good question because this happens all the time in hit and run cases throughout Los Angeles, and that is, people get in some accident, they will leave for some reason or another — maybe they don't have insurance; perhaps they don't have a valid license, or they don't even realize that they were involved in an accident because of the circumstances — and then they end up going back to the scene.
Technically, when you get in an accident, you have to stop and exchange information with the other side. Meaning, you have to give them your insurance, name, and phone number, and then you're good to go. You don't necessarily have to wait for the police to get to every accident scene. That's not very realistic. California Vehicle Code 20002 covers misdemeanor hit and run charges, while Vehicle Code 20001 covers felony hit and run charges.
But if you leave the scene of an accident, that technically is a hit and run. So, even if you come back, you technically have been involved in a crash and run accident, and you could be charged with a crime. However, if you have a reason for leaving the scene, or if not much time has passed, you may be okay. The police and prosecutor just may not deal with a case like that.
I've had many cases where people get involved in an accident with somebody, and the other party comes out angry, screaming, yelling, threatening, which causes them to leave the scene. The only problem with that is if you leave the stage and never go back and don't make any phone calls, that's a hit and run.
You can't do that because then it's going to be your word against their word as to whether or not they did anything wrong or you just fled the scene because you didn't want to get in trouble for hitting somebody else's car. You would be covered if you left the scene because you were under attack, and you called 9-1-1 and reported the accident and said, I just got in an accident. You say where the location is. You give your information.
You say the other party is dangerous, and I'm afraid that I'm going to be physically assaulted. You'd be good then because now they can track you. I'm not seeing the prosecutors filing that case against you. But I have had instances where people have gone back to the scene of the accident minutes or even hours later, and depending on how bad the accident was, sometimes there are still people at that accident scene, and I've had my clients get arrested and charged with a hit and run for doing that.
Specific Circumstances Why You left the Scene Matter
So, it depends on the circumstances as to why you left in the first place, and when you go back, is there anybody, and can you explain why you left in the first place. The whole purpose of the hit and run law is that if you damage somebody else's property, they can get your information and be compensated for that, either through the criminal system, if it's a hit and run, or civilly.
They could get their insurance company involved and your insurance company involved, or they could sue you if you improperly damage their property. So, if you come back to the scene and they're able to get all that information, then it could be a situation of no harm/no foul, and the prosecutors don't charge you with a criminal hit and run. But again, technically, leaving the crime scene is just a matter of sometimes they don't file every single case that is a crime in the San Fernando Valley courthouses.
Experienced Hit and Run Defense Lawyer
So, if you've got a hit and run matter and need some help with it, either at a stage where it's happened, the authorities have not got a hold of you or at the stage where they've sent you a letter and want you to come in, bring your car, give a statement, or send you a letter. They want you to appear in court because you've been charged with a hit and run, or you've been arrested or cited into court for an impact and run, pick up the phone, make the call.
I've been doing this for twenty-five years — hundreds of hit and run cases on accidents in the San Fernando Valley — so I'm the guy to go to to help guide you through a sometimes complex process.