If you flee the scene of an accident in the state of California, you can be charged with a hit and run, which carries harsh penalties depending on the facts of the incident. There are two statutes defining collision and run, and the primary difference between these two is the crucial factor of a victim's injuries.
Vehicle Code 20002 VC defines a misdemeanor hit and run case and is the most common charge. Vehicle Code 20001 defines a felony hit and run case and requires that a victim sustained an injury. It should be noted. However, the level of damages is often debated in borderline cases. Put simply, a VC 20002 felony case typically requires a severe injury, but there is no complex statutory definition of what exactly would qualify.
In some cases, a victim will claim they suffered a soft tissue injury, which should be charged as a VC 20001 misdemeanor hit and run because it's not typically considered a severe injury.
In other cases, a victim suffered a severe injury, like a broken leg, and the driver immediately left the accident scene. They could be charged with the more serious felony crime of felony hit and run in this scenario.
The crime of hit and run occurs the very moment when someone leaves the scene of an accident, regardless of who was at fault. Put simply, you are responsible for exchanging information or trying to help the other party. The following information by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers should help you better understand the laws.
Police Investigation of Hit and Run Cases
There are a lot of hits and runs in Los Angeles County and the San Fernando Valley. People are getting into accidents and leaving the scene. Sometimes they get in an accident, and their car won't work, so they get out of their car and run away.
The police will follow up on that situation because they'll get the driver's license and figure out who was driving the vehicle and who the car is registered to. Then they will end up going to that person's house to find them.
If the other parties involved in the hit and run can see the person, they'll get the registered owner of the car's driver's license and get a Sound X photograph. Then, they will show the person the picture to see if they can identify the individual involved in the hit and run.
The Crucial factor of Injuries in a Hit and Run Case
What determines whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor is an injury. If there is no injury, and only property damage, then typically, the case will be filed as a Vehicle Code 20002 VC misdemeanor. You still don't want a misdemeanor hit-and-run conviction on your record.
If the person claims they are injured, you could be charged with a Vehicle Code 20001 VC felony. If you're convicted of a felony hit and run in California, then you're facing not only jail and prison time you're also facing a loss of your driver's license for one year. Any hit and run involving an injury require the DMV to suspend the driver's license for one year.
If you get angry at somebody on the road and it goes beyond a hit and run, for example, you intentionally ram somebody or intentionally hit somebody on the road; you could also be charged with assault with a deadly weapon Penal Code Section 245(a)(1). In that scenario, you will lose your license for life if you get convicted of that type of crime.
Hit and Run Warrants
So, this starts to give you an idea of how severe hit and run cases are. There are a lot of people that are involved in them. Many people have warrants for their arrest involving a hit-and-run accident. There are so many hit-and-run accidents in Los Angeles County that the police don't have the workforce to follow through in every situation effectively.
So, many times, people will have that on their record, but they'll still be walking around, working, going home every day, but they're looking over their shoulder, and eventually, the police will come by.
Usually, they like to come by on holidays, and they'll arrest the person. They'll put them in jail, and then the person will have to face that hit-and-run charge. Or, the person will just simply get pulled over, and they'll end up facing the hit and run charge.
What are the Related Crimes?
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may be charged with other crimes in addition to the hit and run itself. The related offenses might include:
- Vehicle Code 23152 VC – driving under the influence,
- Vehicle Code 23153 VC – driving under the influence causing injury,
- Vehicle Code 23103 VC – reckless driving,
- Vehicle Code 14601 VC – driving with a suspended license,
- Vehicle Code 2800.1 VC – evading the police in a vehicle,
- Penal Code 192(c) PC – vehicular manslaughter,
- Penal Code 191.5 PC – gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated,
- Penal Code 187 PC – DUI Watson murder.
What is the Best Defense Strategies?
So, I think the bottom line is if you or a loved one is charged with hit and run in the Los Angeles County or the San Fernando Valley, there are effective ways to deal with it. There are ways to keep out of jail, to salvage your driving record. There are a lot of factors that have to be considered:
- Did you have insurance at the time?
- Did you have a valid driver's license at the time?
If you had both of these things, you're in a pretty good position because you're able to take care of the other driver, and we're able to show the judge and the prosecutor that you're a responsible driver.
You might have made a mistake. There are various reasons why people get involved in a hit and run accidents. But, the bottom line is, if you get charged with a felony because somebody gets hurt, you're facing prison time.
Even if you get charged with a misdemeanor, you're still facing jail time. So, take these hit-and-run cases seriously. They are easy to deal with. I've successfully gotten bench warrants out of the system very quickly and put people back in a solid position. Don't let a warrant for a hit-and-run case haunt you. Deal with it.
Pick up the phone. Make the call. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I've been handling these cases for nearly 30 years. I know every angle, having worked for the DA's office early in my career. I also worked for a Superior Court Judge and then been a criminal defense attorney now since 1994.
So, that experience working for the judge and the prosecutors gave me an idea about how they perceive these cases, and then, of course, defending people just like you has given me a pretty good road map for how to deal with them effectively. Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case evaluation.