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Hit-and-Run

California Vehicle Code 20002 V.C.
California Vehicle Code 20001 V.C.
California Vehicle Code 20003 V.C.
California Vehicle Code 20004 V.C.

A hit-and-run is a crime involving a vehicular accident where the driver leaves the scene without properly stopping to identify him/herself to the other driver or the police.

What is a Hit-and-Run Charge?

Under California Vehicle Code 20002 V.C., you can be prosecuted for a hit-and-run if you allegedly: (a) knowingly fled the scene of a car accident that caused only property damage and not injury; (b) failed to immediately stop after the accident; or (c) failed to provide your name and contact information to the owner of the other vehicle or property you allegedly struck.

There are two types of hit-and-run crimes: one that involves property damage only (for example, striking a parked car), and one that involves injury or death (for example, you allegedly injured the other driver).

If there is property damage only, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. If there is injury or even death, you will prosecuted for a “felony Hit-and-Run” under California Vehicle Code 20001 V.C., California Vehicle Code 20003 V.C., and California Vehicle Code 20004 V.C.

Notwithstanding the “felony” term, the District Attorney has discretion to charge an injury case as a “wobbler” offense, meaning as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor will decide based on a number of factors, including: your prior criminal record (if any), the severity of the accident, your driving record (e.g., you were driving on a suspended license), whether you were intoxicated, and other relevant facts.

What are Examples of Hit-and-Run situations (property damage only)?

Examples of Hit-and-Run situations include the following:

  • Another driver illegally ran a red light and t-boned your car, but you nevertheless drove away from the scene.
  • You accidentally backed up and knocked over your neighbor’s mail box then drove off.
  • You swerved to avoid hitting the dog and saw in your rear-view mirror that your swerving caused another driver to crash into a parked car. You then continued driving away from the scene.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for a Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of a Hit-and-Run under California Vehicle Code 20002 V.C., the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 2150):

  • While driving you were involved in a vehicle accident;
  • You caused damage to someone else’s property;
  • You knew you had been involved in an accident that caused property damage, or had reason to believe that property damage resulted from it; and
  • You willfully failed to perform one or more of the following duties:
  • To immediately stop at the scene of the accident; or
  • To immediately provide the owner or controller of the damaged property with your name and current residence address.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove for a Felony Hit-and-Run Charge?

To prove that you are guilty of a Hit-and-Run under California Vehicle Code 20001 V.C., California Vehicle Code 20003 V.C., and California Vehicle Code 20004 V.C., the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements (as required by the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 2140):

  • While driving you were involved in a vehicle accident;
  • You caused injury or death to someone else;
  • You knew you had been involved in an accident that caused injury or death to someone else, or had reason to believe that injury or death resulted from it; and
  • You willfully failed to perform one or more of the following duties:
  • To immediately stop at the scene of the accident;
  • To provide reasonable assistance to the injured person; or
  • To immediately provide the person struck, the driver, or the occupants of the vehicle collided with your name, current residence address, and the registration number of the vehicle you were driving; and
  • If requested, to show your driver’s license to the person struck, the driver, or the occupants of the vehicle collided with.
  • If the accident resulted in death, you must also, without unnecessary delay, notify either the police department or California Highway Patrol (if the accident occurred in an unincorporated area).

What Happens If I am Convicted of a Hit-and-Run Charge?

If you are convicted of a Hit-and-Run charge under California Vehicle Code 20002 V.C., California Vehicle Code 20001 V.C., California Vehicle Code 20003 V.C., or California Vehicle Code 20004 V.C., you face the following punishment (excluding any sentencing enhancements):

  • One, two, three, or four years in prison (if you are convicted of a felony with injury); or
  • Six months in county jail (if you are convicted of a misdemeanor); and
  • A maximum fine of $10,000 (felony) or $1,000 (misdemeanor);
  • Probation of three or five years (felony or misdemeanor);
  • Possible community service (felony or misdemeanor);
  • Victim restitution;
  • Accrual of at least two points to your DMV record, which will affect the cost of your car insurance when it comes up for renewal. Alternatively, the possible restriction, suspension or loss of your driver’s license; and
  • Possible loss of ability to obtain or maintain a professional license, loss of employment or educational opportunities, or adverse immigration consequences (if applicable).

For misdemeanors, the judge may also agree to a civil compromise under California Penal Code 1377 P.C. & California Penal Code 1378 P.C. if the victim only seeks reimbursement for the property damage, as opposed to wanting to criminally prosecute you. If this occurs, the judge will dismiss the case if you fully reimburse the victim. The judge may agree to this civil compromise even if the prosecutor objects.

Finally, if you are a first-time offender (felony or misdemeanor), you may also be eligible for diversion, in which case you plead guilty but formal sentencing is postponed to allow you the opportunity to pay restitution, complete community service, and/or complete whatever other conditions the court imposes. Upon successful completion, your guilty plea will be withdrawn and the case will be dismissed.

What are My Possible Defenses to a Hit-and-Run Charge?

Burglary cases can often be resolved during the investigation stage even before criminal charges are actually filed. Specifically, a highly experienced and skilled Los Angeles County Burglary attorney like Ninaz Saffari might be able to convince the investigating detective to not refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution, or to convince the D.A.’s Office not to file charges if the case has already been referred. These are called Pre-Files, which Ms. Saffari has a great deal of experience in successfully negotiating. See her Case Results.

If you are charged with Burglary, Ms. Saffari will first conduct a thorough investigation, often with the help of her private investigator, to ascertain all relevant facts. Again, if possible, she will attempt to get the charges dismissed either before or shortly after they are filed. If she takes the case to trial, she will often use an expert witness who will argue that the alleged harm never occurred, did not occur to the degree claimed, occurred but was the result of an accident or unintentional conduct, or that the District Attorney has otherwise failed to provide enough evidence to meet the high threshold to prove Burglary.

The following are the possible defenses to a Hit-and-Run charge:

  • Lack of involvement. You were not actually driving or otherwise involved in the accident.
  • Lack of property damage or injury. You did not actually cause property damage or injure the other person.
  • Lack of knowledge. You did not know, or did not have reason to know, that you actually caused property damage or injury.
  • Lack of willfulness. For example, the other driver tried to attack you after the accident, forcing you to flee the scene for your own safety. Or perhaps you were unable to render assistance to the injured driver because you had suffered a concussion or were in a state of shock as a result of the accident and, therefore, walked away from the scene without realizing what had occurred.
  • Compliance with legal duties. You actually did comply with all of the duties identified above immediately after the accident. For example, you did actually stop immediately after the accident, you did actually leave your contact information, etc.
  • False accusations. The alleged victim or supposed eyewitness may have ulterior motives for lying to the police. Some of the most common motives include child custody disputes and romantic strife with current or former lovers.
  • Misidentification by the accuser or witness. For example, your act was misunderstood or misinterpreted, or you were not the actual person who was driving at the time of the accident. Eyewitness identification can be affected by many different factors, including bad lighting, witness stress, cross-racial identification, suggestions by the police, etc.
  • Constitutional defenses. These include lack of probable cause, police misconduct (coerced confession, planted evidence, falsified police report, racial profiling, etc.), Miranda violations (suppressing any statements you made to the police if your Miranda rights were violated), and suppression of evidence that was seized without reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a valid warrant (in violation of the Fourth Amendment).
  • Insufficient evidence. The prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of one or more charges.
  • The accuser and/or witnesses are not credible. In other words, for any host of reasons, the jury simple does not believe what the accuser and/or witnesses are claiming about your criminal culpability.

What Kind of Hit-and-Run Cases Has Ninaz Saffari Defended?

Since 2005, Ninaz Saffari has successfully represented hundreds of clients against Hit-and-Run charges, including accidents involving both property-only damage, accidents involving injury, and even accidents involving death. See her Case Results.

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If you or a loved one are currently being investigated or prosecuted for this crime, it is critical that you immediately hire a highly skilled, aggressive and experienced Los Angeles County Hit-and-Run criminal defense attorney like Ninaz Saffari. Contact the Saffari Law Firm, P.C. now for a free telephone consultation. If Ms. Saffari believes she can help you, she will immediately schedule a free in-person meeting or, if you are in custody, she will visit you in jail (again, for free and with no obligation to hire her).

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