In Los Angeles, California, it is extremely common for a person to be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) and a hit and run during the same incident. A DUI is a serious enough charge, but a conviction of a hit and run, which, as per Vehicle Code Section 20001, where the accident causes a permanent, serious injury or death is far more severe. As per the law, “permanent, serious injury” refers to the loss or permanent impairment or function of a bodily organ or member.
Naturally, getting into a car accident can make anyone feel a variety of emotions. One of the most basic is fear, which might make you want to flee the scene of the accident if you were at fault and especially if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, when you flee the scene of a vehicle accident, the situation becomes far more serious and can result in considerable consequences for you.
What is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run is the act of leaving the scene after you have gotten involved in a car accident, whether the accident was with another vehicle, a pedestrian or even a fixed object like a parked car or mailbox. When a person flees the scene of an accident and fails to identify themselves to the victim or owner of the object struck and doesn’t offer help to those who may require assistance, it is considered a hit and run. Some states in the country even consider hitting an animal with your vehicle and leaving the scene to also be a hit and run.
What Happens When You Get a DUI and a Hit and Run Charge Simultaneously?
If you have been involved in a hit and run in Los Angeles, California and you were also under the influence, you can be charged with both a DUI and hit and run.
Many people do not realize that both hit and run and DUI offenses, whether they are committed together or separately, are considered “no fault” offenses when damage or injury is sustained as a result. That means that if you are found to be responsible for a hit and run and have a DUI charge, it doesn’t matter if it’s your fault and you will be charged based on the level of damage or injury.
When there is damage or an injury to another person because of a DUI and hit and run, the individual being charged can expect the charges against them to be increased. In general, the charges are also considered to be a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. With a felony on a person’s record, it can make many things increasingly difficult for that individual’s future.
What are the Penalties and Sentences for a DUI Hit and Run?
A person who is charged with both a DUI and hit and run will face penalties for both crimes. If the individual was involved in a misdemeanor hit and run, which involves property being damaged after the collision, there is a maximum fine of $1,000 and a jail term of up to six months.
Of course, the penalties for a felony charge, which is given if another person was injured or even killed as a result of the accident, are far more serious. The punishment includes fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, up to one year in jail if the injury caused by the accident was minor and two to four years of incarceration in state prison if the accident caused serious injury or death.
In addition to these penalties, there are administrative penalties enforced for fleeing the scene of an accident. Generally, regardless of whether the individual is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, they can expect their driver’s license to be revoked for six months. There may also be civil penalties involved as well, such as if the victim decides to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Possible Defenses for a DUI Hit and Run Charge
The prosecutor is required to prove that the defendant was involved in the car accident and that the person was aware of it and did not willfully flee the scene. The defense attorney can argue that the person didn’t know about the accident and did not leave the scene willfully. Additionally, the defense lawyer can claim that the defendant was the only one injured in the accident, which means the individual cannot be convicted of a hit and run because no one else was injured. With this defense, it’s still possible to receive a misdemeanor conviction if property damage occurred.
A DUI hit and run is very serious. It’s important to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney to represent you because it’s your best chance of having the charges against you reduced or dropped.