DUI Hit-and-Run Charges in California
There are a lot of cases where people are driving recklessly, not paying attention, or even the victim of a case walks into a dark street or darts out, and a hit-and-run occurs.
The person hits the individual in the road – whether it's a pedestrian or hits another vehicle or vehicles and then flees the scene – and they were drinking and driving, so they're facing a DUI hit and run if they left the scene, and depending on the extent of the injuries to the victim, they could be facing a whole lot worse than that.
Regardless of the circumstance, hit-and-runs usually result in criminal charges against you. However, when you add DUI to the offense, the penalties you face can worsen, especially here in California.
California Vehicle Code 20002 VC defines a misdemeanor offense, and Vehicle Code Section 20001 VC covers a felony hit and run. Misdemeanors are usually filed when there is only property damage, while felonies will be filed when someone is injured.
The main factor for prosecutors in deciding what type of hit-and-run charges to file always depends on whether someone was injured in the accident. Let's review these laws further below.
What Does the Law Say?
A hit-and-run crime occurs when a driver in an accident leaves the scene without reporting to the police or providing information to the victim.
Vehicle Code 20002 VC says, “(a) 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 that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists.”
Vehicle Code 20001 VC says, “(a) 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 20003 and 20004.”
Vehicle Code 20002 VC, a hit-and-run involving only property damage but no injury, is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1000 and up to 6 months in jail--plus a 2-point penalty on their driver's license.
Vehicle Code 20001 VC, a hit and run that causes physical injury or death to another person, is a "wobbler" that may be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.
However, when any hit-and-run involves injury or death to another person, prosecutors typically file it as a felony. If convicted of felony hit-and-run, the defendant could face fines of up to $10,000 and up to 4 years in jail.
How Can You Defend a Hit-and-Run Charge?
So, when you try to defend these cases, one of the first things you're looking at is whether or not the police can prove that you were the driver of the car that hit the pedestrian or the other vehicle.
That's one line of defense – that they can't prove you were the driver. The way they do that is they're going to look at the car being driven and see to whom that car is registered.
Then they're going to investigate with you, your family, wherever you're living and see if they can determine who is the one who usually drives that car. Of course, who was driving the car on the night or day hit and run, DUI accident occurred?
One defense is that you weren't the one driving. The next defense would be that they can't prove you were intoxicated.
If you left the scene – if they miss you and test your blood or breath within about three hours – you've got a pretty good argument that they're not going to be able to figure out what your blood alcohol level was at the time of driving, so that's undoubtedly another defense that can be utilized. Other defenses include:
- You did not know about the accident;
- You did not willfully leave the scene;
- You were the only person injured,
Other Legal Defense for Hit-and-Run Cases
Then, of course, the final defense, which usually turns out not to be a defense, is that the accident – whether it be with a pedestrian who darted out or a car that made some illegal move, was not your fault.
Therefore, you should not be responsible for any criminal activity. Well, of course, this is not true for several reasons.
Number one, if you were driving drunk and you hit somebody and left the scene, they can file a felony hit and run if the person was hurt and a felony DUI if the person was injured, regardless of the accident's fault.
Number two, you have to understand, for hit and run, they're not looking at whose fault the accident was. I've had plenty of clients get rear-ended while just sitting there doing nothing, and then they leave the scene for various reasons.
Maybe they didn't have a driver's license. Maybe there was a warrant out for their arrest, or perhaps they just got scared because the other person was going crazy yelling at them even though it wasn't their fault, and they left the scene.
That's a hit-and-run, even though you weren't even the person who hit the other person, and it wasn't your fault.
How Can a Hit-and-Run Lawyer Help You?
The bottom line is that you have a responsibility if you're involved in an accident on the road to exchange information with the other party.
If you don't do that and you leave, it's a hit-and-run.
Now, if the other party is going crazy, very simple. You pick up the phone. You call 9-1-1. You let them know your name.
You let them know you were just involved in an accident and give them all the information, but you also throw in there that the other party was acting very dangerous, and you didn't feel comfortable interacting with him.
You can undoubtedly call 9-1-1 and wait for the police or call 9-1-1 and get away from those people. As long as you've got that 911 call marked, you're covered. But, if you leave the scene, that will be a hit-and-run.
Your defense attorney and their legal team can provide crucial help, such as the following:
- Offer critical legal guidance;
- Provide you will all the legal options;
- Collect evidence pertinent to your DUI case;
- Contact witnesses and experts;
- Represent your best interests in court;
- Negotiate the best plea bargain;
So, the bottom line is that if you're involved in a hit-and-run accident or a DUI, you want the best. I've been doing this now for 30 years.
I started working for the district attorney's office in LA county and then for a superior court judge. I've also worked for the State Bar of California, and finally, I've worked for people like you since the early 1990s, defending them for DUI hit-and-run cases and getting the best possible results.
So, pick up the phone and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.