California Vehicle Code Section 20002(a) makes it a misdemeanor for an individual to flee the scene of an accident. If convicted, one can face jail time, costly fines, or both. Furthermore, hit-and-run convictions result in points on your driving record and could even lead to a license suspension.
In this quick guide, our Los Angeles DUI lawyers give an overview of California’s Vehicle Code 20002(a) for misdemeanor hit-and-run law and discuss the elements of the offense, defenses, and possible penalties.
If you or someone you know was in a vehicle accident and is facing a criminal charge for a hit-and-run, consider the help of a criminal defense lawyer. A misdemeanor offense comes with repercussions, but you still have defense strategies to help your case, even if you were accused of driving impaired at the time of the hit-and-run.
What Is a Misdemeanor Hit and Run Under California Law?
A misdemeanor hit-and-run occurs when a driver is involved in an accident resulting in property damage or bodily injury to another person and fails to stop, provide identification, and render aid as required by California Vehicle Code 20002(a).
What Are the Elements of a California Misdemeanor Hit and Run?
To convict an individual for Vehicle Code 20002(a), the prosecutor must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include:
- First, the defendant was operating a motor vehicle.
- Second, the defendant’s vehicle was involved in an accident resulting in property damage or bodily injury to another person.
- Third, the defendant knew or, through reasonable care, should have known that their vehicle was involved in a collision.
- Finally, the defendant intentionally failed to stop at the scene, provide personal identification, and render reasonable assistance as required by California law.
Without proof, a skilled criminal defense attorney can argue for the dismissal of misdemeanor hit-and-run charges. There are often avenues to dispute involvement, knowledge, or intent elements. An experienced lawyer thoroughly investigates the alleged incident and advocates strongly on the defendant’s behalf.
What Are the Penalties for a Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run Conviction in California?
Penalties for misdemeanor hit and run include up to 6 months in county jail, fines up to $1,000, driver’s license suspension, restitution to victims, and probation, including community service.
Does a Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run Create a Criminal Record in California?
Yes, a misdemeanor conviction under CVC 20002(a) creates an adult criminal record. However, in some cases, courts grant deferred entry of judgment or reduced pleas for infractions, avoiding formal misdemeanor records. An attorney specializing in misdemeanor criminal defense can assist you in avoiding a criminal history.
When does a California Hit-and-Run Become a Felony?
Hit and run rise to a felony charge if the accident caused permanent, serious injury or death to any person. Felony convictions can lead to multi-year prison sentences.
Possible Defenses for California’s Misdemeanor Vehicle Code 20002 (a) Hit-and-Run Charges
Defenses may include disputing involvement in the accident, leaving briefly to call the police, lacking awareness that a collision occurred, or safely moving to a non-obstructing location before exchanging information.
Will My Insurance Cover a Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run Accident in California?
Generally, no, auto insurance policies exclude coverage for accidents resulting from illegal acts like hit and run. However, an experienced lawyer may overcome claim denial through advocacy.
Can Undocumented Drivers Face Hit-and-Run Charges in California?
Yes, immigration status has no bearing under CVC 20002(a) for misdemeanor hit-and-run collisions. Undocumented immigrants are subject to misdemeanor or felony prosecution for hit-and-run just as citizens are.
Are Private Property Accidents Subject to California’s Hit-and-Run Laws?
No, CVC 20002 only applies to collisions occurring on highways and public streets. However, broader hit-and-run laws can cover DUI and vehicular manslaughter accidents on private property.
Can I Leave a Minor Accident Scene to Avoid Citations?
Never leave an accident scene. The criminal penalties, civil liability, license suspension, and insurance impacts of a hit-and-run vastly outweigh ordinary traffic citations. Always stop, exchange information, and contact the police.
How to Beat a Hit and Run Charge
An experienced California criminal defense attorney can dispute your involvement, raise reasonable doubt, negotiate reduced charges, and advocate for the best resolution. Early legal guidance is key to limiting penalties.
Defenses Against Criminal Liability for CA Vehicle Code 20002 (a) Misdemeanor Charge
There are defenses against hit-and-run charges that may work depending on the details of your case. The most common defense is that you didn’t know you were involved in an accident.
For example, you may have heard a noise while driving, but when you looked back in the mirror, you didn’t see that you had swiped a parked car. Or, you backed into a fence and damaged it while pulling out but never saw the damage.
This is very different from saying you didn’t know you were supposed to pull over. In most cases, this won’t help. There is an old legal adage that says, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one.” If you knew you had caused an accident, you had a duty to pull over.
Other possible defenses include:
- You weren’t the one driving the car.
- You knew you caused a collision but thought there was no damage.
A good DUI lawyer can help you choose the right defense and build your defense.