California prosecutes DUI hit-and-runs in California harshly. Traffic accidents happen. Unfortunately, some people can panic and flee the scene of a car crash. Whether or not you are responsible for the collision, leaving the scene of an accident without notifying law enforcement or leaving a note can lead to life-long consequences.
How Is a California DUI Hit-and-Run Defined?
A DUI hit-and-run accident in California is unique. In essence, a driver has committed two crimes. On the one hand, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident. On the other hand, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited.
If arrested for a California DUI hit-and-run, you may incur a combination of damaging charges.
What Is Considered a Hit-and-Run in California?
Under California law, there are two types of hit-and-run charges. The motorist who left the scene may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The most common charge is a misdemeanor.
Drivers are required to stop if a traffic accident causes property or vehicle damage. In addition, they are responsible for exchanging contact information, insurance cards, and calling the proper authorities. Failing to stop at the scene and report the collision is considered a misdemeanor hit-and-run.
If a traffic accident causes personal injury or death, leaving the scene will be considered a felony hit-and-run. According to the California Highway Patrol, in the last reporting year, nearly 300,000 people have been injured in motor vehicle traffic accidents. Even if a person suffers only minor injuries, if the driver flees the scene of an accident, they will likely be charged with a felony hit-and-run.
What Is Considered Driving Under the Influence (DUI)?
A motorist can be charged with a DUI if they have been drinking or using drugs while operating a vehicle. If a driver is stopped and has a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.08% or more, they are considered legally intoxicated. In addition to illegal drugs, many legal drugs and over-the-counter medications can lead to a DUI arrest.
For example, driving under the influence of marijuana or a medication with a sleep aid is prohibited. Drivers may suffer reduced reaction times and the inability to focus on the road. In most cases, a basic DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor.
However, there are a few circumstances that can lead to a felony DUI charge. For example:
- If the driver suspected of driving under the influence causes the injury or death of another
- If the driver has a certain number of prior DUI convictions
- If there are any other aggravating circumstances that warrant a harsher DUI charge
When a motorist leaves the scene of an accident and has been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the penalties are often severe.
What Are the Penalties for a California Hit-and-Run Accident?
California does not have a specific DUI hit-and-run charge. Instead, a driver will likely face multiple charges. Both crimes have different legal standards and varying penalties.
How Do the Penalties Overlap for a Hit-and-Run DUI Charge?
The penalties for a hit-and-run or DUI charge vary considerably. The extent of punishment greatly depends on the circumstances of the crime and whether the charges are misdemeanors or felonies.
For a hit-and-run charge, a driver may face:
- Fines ranging from$1,000 to $10,000
- 6 months up to 4 years in prison
- Possible restitution to victims left injured
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to:
- Fines in excess of $390 to $1,000
- 48 hours to 3 years in jail
- Suspended license
- DUI classes
If convicted of all charges, the judge may order the sentences to be carried out at the same time or after one another.
If Convicted and Sentenced to Prison, Are the Sentences Served Concurrent or Cumulative?
By itself, a DUI charge or a hit-and-run charge can lead to a misdemeanor or a felony arrest. When the cases overlap, the accused can face either concurrent or stacked penalties.
Concurrent charges mean that if a defendant is convicted of multiple charges, their sentence may be served at the same time. For example, suppose a driver is convicted of fleeing the scene of an accident and is sentenced to 1 year in prison. In addition, the driver is convicted of a DUI and is sentenced to 1 year in jail. A concurrent sentence will mean the defendant will serve 1 year in prison for both crimes.
Stacked, or cumulative sentences, means the defendant will serve one sentence at a time. In keeping with the above example, the defendant would serve the hit-and-run sentence first, then the DUI sentence for a combination of 2 years in prison.
If you are facing multiple charges after a DUI hit-and-run arrest, speak to a DUI defense lawyer in Los Angeles immediately. The sooner an experienced attorney can get involved in your case, the greater chance of mitigating the damage and mounting a successful defense.
Are There Legal Defenses to a Hit-and-Run DUI Accident in California?
After an arrest for a DUI hit-and-run collision, an effective defense is critical to protecting your rights, reputation, and future prospects. A Los Angeles DUI attorney can represent your best interests and mitigate the adverse effects of criminal charges.
Some common legal defense tactics include the following:
- Establishing that you were not driving under the influence: This defense can be used in conjunction with a defense to the hit-and-run charge. In some cases, law enforcement may not have strong enough evidence to prove you were driving while impaired at the time of the accident.
- Proving someone else was behind the wheel at the time of the collision: In a hit-and-run accident, law enforcement will generally identify the vehicle involved in the incident, not the driver. Unless there is camera footage or strong evidence linking you to the driver’s seat, this may be an effective defense.
- Proving your arrest was unlawful: One of the strongest defenses to both a DUI charge and a hit-and-run charge is proving your constitutional rights were violated. An unlawful arrest may include an illegal search, failure to establish probable cause, failure to inform you of your rights during the arrest, and many more.
- Establishing you were unaware of the accident: Not every hit-and-run accident is a major collision. In some cases, a car merely bumped into another in a parking lot. If it can be established that you were unaware of the motor vehicle accident and subsequent property damage, the hit-and-run charge may be able to be dropped.
Contact an Attorney for Help Today
When fighting multiple charges, several different defenses are usually required. Our California DUI hit-and-run attorneys are here to help you with the best strategy for your circumstances. Call to schedule a consultation today.