The definition of a hit and run in San Fernando Valley is similar to the same charge in other places. Anytime you’re involved in an accident where there’s property damage you have an obligation to stop and give your information so that the other party knows who you are. If you’re responsible they can pursue you by way of your insurance company or otherwise. If you hit a car that is parked and there’s nobody around, you can leave a note on the window with all your information. The bottom line is that you can’t just hit somebody’s vehicle or property and leave. This is where you start to get into the hit-and-run problem. You’ll be looking at a criminal charge, probation, and other potential punishment. One thing people don’t realize is that regardless of whose fault an accident might be, you still have to exchange information.
I’ve had clients who have been rear-ended and then have fled the scene for various reasons. Maybe they don’t have insurance, maybe they don’t have a license, or they claim they didn’t think there was any damage. The bottom line is if you are in an accident or some sort of property damage occurs and you are involved with it then you’ve got to give the other party your information: your name, your telephone number, your driver’s license number, and then your coverage. I do see cases where people are getting in an accident and then saying, “I’m going to just wait for the police.” Technically, you don’t have to wait for the police. You just need to exchange information. If somebody does that to you though, you probably want to just call the police yourself.
If you’re going to leave, maybe the other person is acting crazy, yelling, or screaming. You can call the police and say, “I was just involved in an accident. Here is my information, the other party is going crazy. I don’t feel safe staying around them. Here is where the accident occurred. I just want to make sure that I do what I’m supposed to do but I don’t want to jeopardize my safety.” Then you would be covered as far as a hit-run would go.
How Does A Misdemeanor Hit & Run Charge Differ From a Felony Hit & Run Charge?
There are few differences between a felony and misdemeanor hit and run charges. Most hit and runs that I see in Los Angeles County are charged as misdemeanors. It has to do with the sort of damage to property, the person not giving your information, and leaving their car there; fleeing the scene themselves or fleeing with their car. Where you get upgraded to a felony in Los Angeles County is when there’s a bad injury. If you injure another party related to hit-run accident that’s going to be charged as a felony and you are going to be looking at potential prison time. Depending on how bad the injury is they might charge you with great bodily injury and this penal code section puts you in a bad situation because it’s a 3-year enhancement. Which means that in addition to the sentence for the hit-and-run accident, you can also get an additional three years.
If it’s just serious injury vs. great bodily injury. It’ll just be charged as a felony, you won’t be looking at the extra enhancement. T0he dividing line as far as hit-and-run cases or any case between a serious injury and great bodily injury is difficult to discern. Typically, broken bones are going to be both a serious injury and great bodily injury, but there are other injuries that you really can’t tell. This is an area where it is important to have an attorney trying to get rid of that great bodily injury obligation as it relates to a hit and run or any other case. Because allegation not only carries three years but it also makes whatever felony issue leads to a strike and you have to serve 85% of the time. It’s a really nasty business.
If you get a hit and run accident and somebody was injured then get an attorney immediately. Let the attorney start to work on your case to get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
Is It Ever Lawful To Leave The Scene Of An Accident In California?
There are reasons to leave the scene of an accident in California. Before you leave the scene of the accident, you’ve got to exchange pertinent information with all parties involved in the accident. That pertinent information is going to have to include your name, your phone number, and your driver’s license. Once you give that information you’re good to leave the scene of the accident. The only exception that is if somebody’s been hurt in the accident. Then you want to stay and try to help that person and call 911. The point of the hit and run law centers around those individuals who are causing injuries, property damage, and then fleeing.
The other party may be hurt, disabled, their vehicle won’t move, and they can’t get the information they need to be able to make themselves whole from this accident. They can’t get your insurance information, they can’t get your information, and that is where the crime comes in. You can leave the scene of a hit and run accident, you just have to exchange information. The danger comes in where the other party claims you didn’t exchange information. That’s why you got to be careful, if you know the police are coming, you may want to just stay at the accident. It’s best not to put yourself in a position where you’ve left the scene, the other party is the only one there to tell the story, they tell a false story, and you’re not there to say something different to the police. Then later you’ll need to be able to prove that you were in an accident and now you’re looking at a hit-and-run charge.
Can I Still Be Charged If There Was No Injury Or Property Damage In A Hit & Run Accident?
It is possible to not be charged for a hit and run if there was no property damage or injury. If there’s no property damage or injury then you don’t have to exchange information. The issue is why take the risk? If you’re in any type of incident where you think there may be some sort of contact with the vehicle, you’ve got to stop and exchange information and then you’re good. When you leave the scene of the accident like that, you open yourself up to potential hit and run charge.
I see people all the time who are claiming I didn’t see any damage, I didn’t think there was any damage, and the other parties called the police. They’ve got a picture of some damage to their car, they’re claiming that the person hit their car, and didn’t exchange information. You’re in a bad position. You’ve got to defend yourself and hire an attorney. It’s just a better practice to exchange information if you’re involved in an incident or the other side can argue that there was an impact or damage to the vehicle. You don’t want to take a chance when it comes to facing a criminal charge and being in a position where you’re looking at time in custody, probation, and a criminal record.
What Can I Do If I Was Not Present In The Vehicle During The Collision But Have Been Charged With A Hit & Run?
There are a couple of steps to follow if you have been charged with a hit and run but weren’t present in the vehicle. You’ll have to see if you’ve been charged, what the allegations are, and what the other party is saying about the alleged accident. Sometimes, someone loans their car to another person and that person ends up getting in an accident and then fleeing the scene. Then law enforcement gets the license plate number of the car, they run the car, see that the car is registered to you, they use the DMV system to get your picture, and now they think that you’re the one that was involved. They may need to get some identification from other party or a witness saying that you were driving the car. It’s evident that it’s your car, it’s registered to you so it’s likely there’s an argument that you were the one driving. However, they will need more than that.
They will need some sort of identification. A lot of times they will get your DMV photograph or any other photograph that they get of you. They’ll put it in a photo pack with five other photographs and see if the party that is claiming to be involved in the hit & run accident or any other witnesses that were there can identify you. If you don’t want to cooperate, you’re claiming that you were not driving, and they can get an identification then the police give it to the prosecutors. The prosecutors can file a case against you if they feel you are involved in a hit & run accident. This is the type of situation that emphasizes why it is important to have an attorney fighting for you. An attorney is able to tell your side of the story.
An attorney is able to get in the details and facts related to your case but won’t be given to the police; the police won’t go out and obtain them. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re talking to the police because sometimes they can misrepresent things in a hit & run accident; they can claim that you said things you didn’t say. Your best option is to get an attorney at the beginning. I do these types of cases all the time. I call the police myself, talk to them, give them my client’s version of events, or tell them that my client is not going to make any statement. It depends on what you and I decide to do; then I execute the plan that protects your rights, your freedom, and your liberty.
How Can Police Prove That I Was Under The Influence At The Time Of A Hit & Run Accident?
It is possible for the police to prove if you were under the influence at the time of a hit and run. The police are very tough on DUIs and hit & run cases in the San Fernando Valley. If they think you were involved they’re going to come and try to prove it. A lot of times somebody will get into an accident, leave the scene, and leave a trail back to them; usually the other party or witnesses. If they have a driver’s license, the police find that and go to their residence; especially if there are any injuries in the accident. They’ll knock on their door, try to get their hands on them, then they can go back to the witnesses and ask, “When did you see this person driving? 10 minutes ago?” Now, they can attempt to have you take a breath and blood tests, get a result and claim that they’ve got an eyewitness that saw you driving 10 minutes ago.
When it comes to DUIs and hit-and-runs, if you get into an accident, and they think you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or some other substance then they can do a forced blood draw. That’s how they do it. I’ve had people get into a hit and run accident, they drive down the street to their house, park their car, then neighbors or witnesses call the police, and they lead them to the person’s car, they get to the house, they knock on the door, and try and get the person out so that they can prove that they’re drunk.
Then they’ve got to pinpoint when they were driving. As long as they can get them driving close to the time where they take their breath or blood then they can an attempt at a DUI. It really depends on the factual scenario when you are talking about hit & run DUIs in the San Fernando Valley courthouses. It’s going to be a situation where the police are trying to build a case, the prosecutors will take that case, they’ll look at it, and they’ll determine whether they can prove through evidence, witnesses, pictures, and statements that the person is DUI, has caused a hit & run, and is responsible.
What Are The Possible Defenses To A Hit & Run Charge In San Fernando Valley?
There are some defenses to a hit and run charge in San Fernando Valley. First, it’s not a defense that the accident was the other party’s fault. Anytime you’re in an accident you’ve got to exchange the pertinent information: your name, your phone number, and your driver’s license then you’re good. Some potential defenses are that it didn’t cause any property damage and I didn’t think I have to wait or give any information; which would be a good defense. If the other party is claiming that you caused some damage but you didn’t cause the accident or you didn’t cause any damage and they can’t prove it.
Another defense is you weren’t the one driving the vehicle. Even though a vehicle may be registered to you if you weren’t the one driving it then they’re not going to be able to prove that you were involved in a hit-and-run accident. Anytime you are talking about a hit-and-run case you need to look at the specific facts surrounding that particular case. You can’t take an approach where you do the same thing every time. We’ve got to get you into the office, sit down, have you tell me what happened, and I use my 25 years of experience to figure out how best to deal with your particular scenario. We don’t do what we normally do every single time. Some cases are unique, sometimes there are facts that don’t come up in other cases. That’s why it’s so important if you think you might be charged or arrested for a hit-and-run accident that you get to an attorney.
Give the attorney the information, be honest, be straightforward, and let that attorney guide you through the process so you can make the right decisions and right choices from the beginning so that you do everything possible to avoid that hit & run charge.
For more information on Hit & Run Charges In San Fernando Valley, CA, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0940 today.