First of all, many people believe you can't have a hit and run if the accident you were involved in wasn't your fault. This is false. Any accident you're involved with, even if it's not your fault, you have to stop and exchange information with the person.
If the person's not there, you have to leave a note in the car. Often, you're better off just calling the police and reporting the accident. At least you have a record of yourself, and nobody could ever challenge you later. A misdemeanor hit and run are covered under California Vehicle Code 20002 VC. A felony hit and run are covered under Vehicle Code 20001 VC.
I can't tell you how many hit and runs I've done in Los Angeles where my client gets in an accident and leaves the scene. The other party waits there, calls the police, and that's it; they've got the hit and run. I had one client sitting at a red light waiting for it to change, and somebody rear-ended him. He drove away because he did not have a valid driver's license.
Instead of a nice accident where he can collect some money for his pain and suffering and get his car fixed by the other party's insurance, he's got a hit and run case. He's got to go to criminal court, and it even looks worse on the driver's license when you get that hit and run conviction. So, it doesn't make sense why somebody would do that, but sometimes people panic. Sometimes people make bad decisions, and then they're in a position where they don't know what to do.
I can't tell you how often I've had a hit-and-run accident, and the client waits months and even years to deal with it. They bury their head in the sand. They assume the worse — which is not a good thing to do — and then they put themselves in a position where they're looking at possible jail time when they get out.
So, nobody wants to be looking at a jail sentence. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic in more detail below.
Reviewing your Hit and Run Case
You want to get in there as fast as you can, hire a defense lawyer like me who knows the ropes and can help turn the tide back in your favor. But what happens in these hit and runs in the San Fernando Valley is that there are so many of them that the police have a stack of cases on their desk.
So, if it's not some horrible injury or somebody passed away, they'll get to it when they get to it. And again, there are so many of them. There are thousands of drivers in the San Fernando Valley and hundreds of hit and run cases. Sometimes, it takes weeks or even months for the police to do something about a hit-and-run case.
That's why it's so crucial that you have the opportunity to get your side of the story in there. You have the chance to do the right thing by handling your hit and run case the right way. So, don't bury your head in the sand. Please don't put yourself in a position where you're worried about it. Take a proactive stance on the case. Get your attorney right away and make some of the moves necessary to get yourself taken care of.
Often, I've had cases where we can work things out with the other party you hit, and the police don't file any charges. Even when they do file charges, I'm often able to get what's called a simple compromise where the prosecutor agrees to dismiss the charges as long as the other party signs a document saying they're satisfied.
They were paid by your insurance company or you, or a combination of both. If we can't get a simple compromise, if we can't get a dismissal because we cooperated, then we try to get the least amount of damage to your criminal record and the least amount of punishment.
To do that, though, you're going to need to be able to pay the other party back — either through your insurance or through your own money– and we're going to need to get in there and take care of things the right way, be professional about it and do damage control.
Retain a Criminal Defense Lawyer
So, if you've got a hit-and-run case, you must get to an attorney as soon as possible. Talk to him, be honest, tell him what happened. I wouldn't say I like it when people don't give me all the information because they often put themselves in the wrong position. You don't want to be in the wrong place.
You want to be in a good position. Tell your attorney everything. Don't hold anything back. Let them decide how they're going to do your defense. Let them decide what spin they're going to put on it. Don't give the attorney a spin initially because sometimes that spin is not accurate and leaves out crucial facts that your attorney needs to know in advance.
As far as stating the police, if you're going to do that — and sometimes you don't want to do that — but if you are going to do that, you want to do that with the assistance of your attorney. Don't go in there and think you're going to be able to out-smart the police or talk your way out of everything. Let your attorney help you. That's what attorneys are there for. That's what they're trained for, and that's what will give you the best possible chance to get the best result in your hit and run case.