If you or a loved one are facing charges of committing a hit and run in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Coachella Valley, or surrounding areas, the potential consequences of a conviction are too great to bring your case before the DMV or judge without the benefit of an experienced defense attorney.
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we have successfully handled numerous hit and run cases in the past, and we understand how to fight for and win the best possible outcome for each client we serve. Don't trust your future to a lawyer without specific experience in the hit and run practice area — there is too much at stake to settle for less than the best possible legal defense.
What Is a "Hit and Run" Under California Law?
The California Vehicle Code, in Section 20002, defines "hit and run" accidents as being any accident wherein injury, death, or property damage was inflicted on another, and yet, a person involved in the accident willfully failed to stop and perform all duties required of a motorist who has been involved in such an accident.
If a defendant allegedly failed to stop and provide identifying information at the scene of a property-damage-only accident, a misdemeanor level hit and run will be charged. But if injury or death took place, a felony will likely be charged.
Note that it is irrelevant who was the at-fault party in the accident, in regard to it still being a hit and run incident. And even a small amount of property damage, whether a fender bender or a struck mail box, can count as a hit and run.
Your Duties as a Motorist
Those involved in a car accident in which another driver's vehicle is damaged or in which another person is injured/killed, are duty-bound under California law to immediately stop their vehicle and give all "reasonable" assistance to any injured party.
They must also divulge their name, address, license number, and certain other pertinent information to the other party and/or to a police officer who may be on-site.
Also note that, if you were driving someone else's car at the time of the accident, you must provide the name/address of the vehicle's owner.
Failing to provide any of the required information or fulfilling only part of the duties California expects from drivers involved in an accident can lead to a hit and run charge.
Finally, note that if you accidentally damage property and it is not possible to immediately contact the owner, should attach a note the property and call police to report the accident as soon as possible.
Possible Penalties for Hit and Runs
Again, if you failed to perform the duties of a motorist in an accident, and only property damage resulted to the other vehicle, it is a misdemeanor offense. This is punishable by:
- A maximum of 6 months in county jail.
- A maximum 3-year informal probationary period.
- A fine of up to $1,000, along with paying additional fines.
- Making full restitution to any and all victims or restoring all property damaged, given that these things were caused by your actions.
- Taking a "two-point" hit on your California driving record.
The above is for VC 20002, which is misdemeanor level hit and run; VC 20001, aggravated hit and run, is often charged as a felony. However, VC 20001, which is a hit and run involving personal injury or death, can be charged as either felony or misdemeanor.
When charged as a misdemeanor, VC 20001 is punishable by:
- A fine of from $1,000 to $10,000.
- Up to 12 months in county jail.
- Note that for 20002 cases, jail time is usually converted to community service, but in 20001 cases, at least 90 days in jail will likely be required if "serious" injury or death occurred.
When charged as a felony, VC 20001 is punishable by:
- A fine of from $1,000 to $10,000.
- From 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
- If death or a permanent/serious injury occurred, 2 to 4 years in state prison.
For a first-offense hit and run charge, and especially if there are no aggravating factors like DUI, it is possible that a good defense lawyer can convince the judge and prosecuting attorney to allow for a "civil compromise."
Under Penal Code Section 1377, injuries or property damage suffered in a hit and run incident can be compensated for under a civil suit instead of under criminal law. This is only available, however, for misdemeanor cases.
While a dismissal or acquittal would be superior to a civil compromise, a civil compromise is much better than a conviction since it allows the charges to be dismissed (and avoid their going on your criminal record) if/when the full compensation amount has been paid.
Possible Defenses Against Hit and Run Charges
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we always fully investigate the details of each case, fight to obtain all relevant police reports and other pertinent documents, challenge the prosecution's evidence in every way possible, and search for witnesses in your favor. We always "custom-build" your defense to the details of your specific case to maximize your chances in court.
Nonetheless, over the years, we have seen many of the same basic "types" of defenses commonly appropriate in hit and run cases. Here are some of the most common kinds of defense strategies we use:
- Mistaken Identity: You were not driving the vehicle that was involved in the car accident. Instead, it may be your vehicle was stolen or borrowed by another person. You may have witnesses who will testify that you lent out your car and that you were elsewhere when the accident occurred. Or, you may have filed a stolen vehicle report with police.
- No Damage Done: It may be that the only property damage that occurred was to your own vehicle or that the only injury that took place was to yourself. In this case, it is not a hit and run, and you are not expected to stop and give out information.
- Lack of Knowledge: In some cases, it is possible that your driving may have caused an accident, and yet, you were not aware of this fact nor could you be reasonably expected to have been aware of it. Especially if not collision took place, or if the impact was so slight as to not be felt, or if you ran over a small animal (pet), you may not even have been aware an accident occurred. This is not a hit and run, then, but a simple mistake.
- No "Willful" Flight: If you were aware of the accident but had a valid reason for not stopping immediately, it is not hit and run. For example, it you were rushing to the hospital during a medical emergency, could not quickly find a safe place to pull over, or if the scene of the accident was dangerous at the time (perhaps, an explosion would occur any moment), this is not not hit and run.
Contact Us Today
At The Law Office of David J. Givot, we will build you a solid defense and will work tirelessly to obtain the most favorable ruling possible in each case we take on. David J. Givot has won numerous past hit and run defense cases, including obtaining dismissals, acquittals, and reduced charges/sentences.
To learn more or to take advantage of a free legal consultation, call us anytime 24/7 at 888-293-0396.
If you hit a parked car or another type of property and the owner of that property isn't on-scene, the duty still exists. When this situation occurs, California Vehicle Code 20002 VC requires that you take the following steps:
- Leave a conspicuously placed note that states:
(a) your "identifying information" mentioned above, and
(b) a summary of what happened, and
- Then immediately contact your local police department or the California Highway Patrol (if the accident happened in an unincorporated area).8