Los Angeles Hit and Run Defense Lawyer

What can you do to protect yourself if you were involved in a hit-and-run accident? This is the crucial question on most people's minds when they call me after being involved in a hit-and-run accident in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

The first thing I would suggest as a defense lawyer is to deal with the situation versus burying your head in the sand and doing nothing. By not facing it, you make the situation worse. People get in accidents every day, and the police and prosecutors know that this is a fact of life in a busy metropolis like Los Angeles County. They cannot accept those who do not live up to their responsibilities.

So my first piece of advice is to shift the tide in your favor by sitting down with an experienced criminal defense attorney that has traveled the road you are about to travel and had success in protecting their client's reputation, freedom, and criminal record. I have been practicing for over 25 years and can help you.

If you believe that the prosecutors and police cannot prove that you were the car's driver at the time of the accident, then this is something you need to discuss with a solid defense attorney and decide your strategy moving forward. There is no set strategy in every hit-and-run case.

These are fluid situations and depend on how you proceed. I know that dealing with it yourself is not a good idea and can end in disaster for you and your family. Make sure you have an attorney by your side to ensure your rights are protected.

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In choosing the right attorney, you should sit down with the attorney face to face and get a feel of their “bedside manner,” so to speak. In other words, is this someone you want representing your interests with the judge and prosecutor? If you like them, the judge and prosecutor probably will. If they come off abrasive or rude, they are probably that way in court. Like anything in life, there are good and bad ones…this goes for attorneys.

Last, I would ensure that the attorney you are considering hiring frequently appears in the courthouse that your case is pending. If they are there all the time, then they will know what to do, who to talk to, and how to get you the best possible result. 

California Laws on Hit-and-Run Cases

If you have hit property, the critical thing that you have to do is to make sure that the property owner is given your contact information (name, driver's license, and insurance) before you leave the scene. Suppose someone is yelling, screaming, and threatening you at the scene of an accident. In that case, you can go for safety and immediately call 911, report the accident and tell them you left the scene because the other party is a nut and you fear for your protection. The prosecutor will not prosecute this scenario because they know you have a built-in defense.

According to California Vehicle Code § 20001, a driver that gets into an accident that results in injury or death must stop and meet specific requirements such as exchange of information as to name, insurance, and address. California Vehicle Code 20002 covers misdemeanor hit-and-run cases. If you fail to meet the requirements outlined in the vehicle code, you may be charged with a hit and run. Once found guilty of hit and run, clearing your criminal record without the services of a hit and run lawyer in Encino, CA, will be next to impossible.

To be found guilty of a hit and run, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: you were involved in the accident; that you knew an accident occurred; that you knew someone was injured/killed or that the accident was of such a nature that it would be probable that someone would be injured/killed; and that you failed to meet the requirements above.

Penalties for a hit and run conviction can be severe and include up to 9 years to life in prison; Felony charge; Up to $10,000 fine; Revocation of your driver's license; Impoundment of your vehicle; DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) school; Points on DMV record; Community service; Probation; Criminal record for life.

Criminal Jury Instructions 2140 for Felony Hit-and-Run Cases

California Criminal Jury Instructions 2140 has to do with someone failing to perform a duty following an accident that causes death or injury. Of course, that duty will be to identify yourself and give your information. You cannot just leave the scene of an accident regardless of whose fault the accident is. When it comes to these hit-and-run cases that cause injuries, this is very serious because this can take your driver's license away for a year or more.

It can cause you to go to prison and a host of other punishments that you cannot quickly get over. There are some aspects of this crime that have to be proved. As an experienced hit-and-run attorney, I've been doing this for twenty-five years, so I've had to battle these cases out in the jury trials across the San Fernando Valley.

Failure to Perform Duty After Accident

When it comes to this type of crime, the judge will instruct a jury by saying the defendant is charged with failing to perform a legal duty following a vehicle accident that caused death or injury to another person. This is a hit-and-run accident. To prove this crime, the people – of the State of California – that's the prosecutors – will have to prove that (1) while driving, the defendant was involved in some accident. That can be an accident.

A person could be sitting at a red light waiting for it to change, and some dummy comes flying up behind him and hits him from behind. That person then panics and drives away, so even though that accident wasn't their fault, you still have a duty to stay there and exchange information with the other driver.

You can't just drive away, and if somebody gets seriously hurt, you could be held responsible for it. Once you have exchanged the necessary information, you may want to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney to determine if you have a chance worth pursuing.

Accident Causing Injury

The second element related to failure to perform a duty or a hit-and-run accident in the San Fernando Valley is the accident caused by some injury. Usually, when you're talking about Vehicle Code Section 20001, 20003, and 20004, you're talking about a Vehicle Code Section where somebody has been injured.

It could be a permanent injury, a severe injury, or a fatal hit-and-run where someone was killed. So, that's one of the requirements to charge somebody with a felony. So, suppose the damage is not severe, and it's a bit of soft tissue injury. In that case, these jury instructions won't apply, and those Vehicle Code Sections won't use because it will be a misdemeanor versus a felony hit-and-run accident.

So, that's usually where the rub is. Sometimes, people claim injuries to get money, but the reality is they're not hurt that bad, and it's not fair to hold a defendant responding to a hit-and-run accident under these circumstances.  Just make sure you discuss your case with a hit-and-run lawyer to make sure if the issue is worth pursuing or not.

Knowledge of Causing Injury

The third element that has to be proven in a hit-and-run accident is that the defendant knew that they had been involved in an accident that injured another person or learned from the accident that it was probable that another person had been injured. This covers a lot because people often will somehow graze somebody, or maybe they do something crazy or don't even touch anybody. Still, they cause an accident between one vehicle or more than one vehicle.

Suppose the person knew or reasonably should have known under the circumstances that they caused an accident. In that case, they're going to have to stop and get out and talk to the other party, exchange information, and obviously, try to help the person if you caused some horrible accident.

Now there are arguments on these cases because many times, people say, I had no idea that I caused this type of injury to this person, and therefore, there's no way that I should be held responsible for this. So, this is one of the elements subject to attack and defense in hit-and-run cases.

Willfully Failing to Stop

The fourth element has to do with the defendant willfully failing to perform one or more of the following duties: (1) you have to immediately stop at the accident scene. If you don't stop and you keep driving – I've had clients go two to three miles away then come back – technically, that's a hit-and-run accident.

I don't know if the prosecutors will file that case if you come back. Other clients have gone in the next day. So, all sorts of scenarios can occur, but the bottom line is that you have to stop at the accident scene and stop immediately. If you don't do that, technically, you will be in violation. The second requirement you have is to provide reasonable assistance to any injured person. So, if somebody is lying on the ground, you have to call 9-1-1.

You don't have to perform any medical procedures, but maybe help get them out of the street if they're hit by a car. In other words, if you get in an accident and someone is seriously hurt, you have to help them. You can't just leave them for dead because if you do that, the prosecutors and police, when they catch you, will charge you, and they're going to try to get punishment for that type of behavior.

You have to give the following information to the person who was struck or occupants or any police officer at the accident scene. You have to give your name and your current address and provide the registration for the vehicle and your insurance.

You have to give them some information so that they can – if it's your fault – they can get compensation for their injuries, for their vehicle. So, you have to give them the information. You'll be charged with a hit-and-run if you don't do that.

One big thing I see is a lot of times, people will hit a parked car in the middle of the night. What do you do then? Well, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1. I hit a parked car. I feel bad. What do I do? Now you have it all documented. You're set.

Give the information. Another thing that would be acceptable but is a little bit dangerous, you could leave all your data on a piece of paper – name, your driver's license number, insurance, phone number – all your information on a note and clip it to the person's window so that way.

Technically if they get the note, you will have fulfilled our requirement, and they can't get you for a hit-and-run accident. Of course, this is dangerous because if the message somehow flies away or they don't get it, and then somebody gets your license plate, you could be charged with a hit-and-run accident.

Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor Hit and Run

If you flee the scene of an accident in 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 as 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. A VC 20002 felony case typically requires a severe injury, but there is no complex statutory definition of what exactly would qualify.

Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor Hit and Run in California

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 severe.

In other cases, a victim suffered a severe injury, like a broken leg, and the driver immediately left the accident scene. In this scenario, they could be charged with the more serious felony crime of felony hit and run.

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 with. Then they will go 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 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, the case will typically 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, you're facing jail and prison time and 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.

Suppose you get angry at somebody on the road, and it goes beyond a hit and runs; for example, you intentionally ram somebody or hit somebody on the road. In that case, 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 effectively follow through in every situation.

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 simply get pulled over and they'll face the hit-and-run command.

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 are the Best Defense Strategies?

So, I think the bottom line is if you or a loved one is charged with hit and run in Los Angeles County or the San Fernando Valley, there are effective ways to deal with it. There are ways to keep out of jail and 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.

Criminal Defense for Los Angeles Hit and Run Cases

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 face 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 and put people back in a solid position.  Don't let a warrant for a hit-and-run case haunt you.  Deal with it. We also know how to best defend DUI hit-and-run cases.

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. Of course, defending people like you has given me a pretty good road map for dealing with them effectively. Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles.

Contact a Hit-and-Run Defense Attorney

I've been doing these hit-and-run accidents now for twenty-five years. We have you come in. We go over everything, and then we design the best plan for you, your life, your reputation, your freedom, and everything necessary. At the Hedding Law Firm, we know the seriousness of a hit-and-run charge, and we do whatever we can for our clients to get them the best possible results, either a dismissal or a lesser amount.

Our criminal defense lawyers have a combined 75 years of experience and have the necessary skill and knowledge to aggressively and efficiently fight in court on your behalf. Call to set up an appointment with a hit-and-run lawyer. We offer a free consultation.