California classifies hit-and-run offenses into two separate categories. First, you have the misdemeanor hit and run, and second, you have the felony hit and run. For a misdemeanor hit and run, you could be charged under the Vehicle Code 20002 VC when you leave the scene of a car accident, don’t identify yourself with the other people involved, or number three, you damaged the other person’s property in the accident.
What’s the Difference?
The biggest difference between the two is in the three factors. Misdemeanor hit and runs will usually concern property damage, but a felony hit and run will have its main concern with injuries. A police officer might arrest and charge you with a felony hit and run when someone on the scene of the accident was killed or injured. The hit and run laws in California will apply to every car accident, and the following doesn’t matter:
- Who could be blamed for the accident.
- The level of damage caused by the accident.
- The seriousness of the injuries.
Because of these factors, a lot of California drivers get ensnared. Even people with zero histories in the criminal justice system have been charged with a hit and run because they had no inkling of an idea that they were even committing a crime.
When You Might Face Hit-and-Run Charges
You might be charged with misdemeanor hit and run if you have driven away from a fender bender, even when the other driver was obviously responsible for the accident. You could also be charged if you hit and damaged someone else’s fence with your vehicle. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but there have been drivers who have been charged with this. If you drive away from an accident that you were responsible for, even if your own vehicle did not collide with the others, you could be held responsible for a hit-and-run charge.
What are the Penalties of Hit and Run?
Even as a misdemeanor charge, hit and run has a surprisingly steep penalty to be aware of. For example, if you are found guilty of this charge, you could face up to a $1,000 fine or up to six months in the county jail. For a felony hit and run, you could face a fine of up to $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the severity, and up to one year in jail. In addition, you might also face lawsuits because the pedestrian or the other driver in the accident was injured.
Good Legal Defense against Hit and Runs
Because of the steep penalties of a hit and run, it becomes worth your time to fight against these charges. You, however, will want to hire an experienced attorney who can defend you. A good legal defense has the potential to acquit you of the misdemeanor charges. Some of the possible defenses for this include:
- You only damaged your vehicle in the accident.
- You did not realize you had been involved in a car accident where someone else had suffered damage to their vehicle.
- Someone else was actually responsible for the car accident.
Understanding Your Duties in a Car Accident
Knowing your responsibilities from a car accident can keep you safe from felony hit-and-run charges. After a car accident occurs, you should immediately stop your vehicle. You will have to check on the other people involved in the accident and ask for their driver information. You will want to know the names and the current addresses of these people. If other parties have come onto the scene, you will have to provide your vehicle registration and your driver’s license at their request. For those who weren’t the owner of the vehicle, you will have to first provide the name and address of the registered owner. A failure to do any of these things can lead to hit-and-run charges.
After a car accident occurs, you have a legal responsibility as a driver to perform specific duties. It doesn’t matter who was to blame. Even if the other driver has 100 percent responsibility for the car accident, you could still face felony hit-and-run charges if you drove away from the scene without performing your duties as a driver.