No matter the circumstance, hit-and-runs will almost always result in criminal charges against you. However, when you throw DUI into the mix, the penalties you face can become even worse, especially in California.
If you’ve been charged with both a DUI and hit-and-run in California, you’ll need a DUI attorney by your side to assist you. Fighting both of these charges can be extremely difficult and stressful to do alone. Learn more about how these charges impact your life from our experienced lawyers.
What You Need to Know About Hit-and-Run Laws
California makes it illegal to leave the scene of an accident in two situations. If the accident caused property damage or if the accident injured someone. The first one is covered under California Vehicle Code (CVC) § 20002, and the second one is covered under CVC § 20001.
Both situations are considered examples of hit-and-run, but they carry very different penalties. Hit-and-run involving only property damage is a misdemeanor, whereas hit-and-run involving injury or death is a felony. So, if your DUI involves a hit-and-run allegation, it’s very serious.
What Are Examples of DUI Hit-and-Runs?
Here are a few common types of hit-and-run DUI cases:
- A driver had two drinks at a bar before driving home. He hits a parked car on the way, but he does not want to be breath tested by police, so he drives off without reporting it.
- A driver already has a suspended license from a previous DUI and is driving illegally when he gets into an accident. The accident is not his fault, but he knows he will get in trouble for driving on a suspended license, so he flees the scene.
- A driver has been smoking marijuana. Late at night, he hits something in the road. Looking in his mirror, he doesn’t see anyone and assumes it was an animal. He continues driving, unaware that he hit a pedestrian.
For a hit-and-run, it does not matter whose fault the accident is. Even if the other person caused the accident, you have a duty to remain at the scene and report it. If you do not, you can be charged with a DUI hit-and-run in California.
What Am I Supposed to Do After an Accident?
California law states that all drivers have duties in an accident. Among these duties, you must:
- Immediately stop at the scene
- Assist anyone who was injured by calling 911
- Give your name, address, and vehicle registration number to any of the parties in the accident or to law enforcement
- Provide the name and address of the vehicle owner if it’s not you
- Show your driver’s license to law enforcement or any of the parties in the accident if requested
- Immediately notify law enforcement of the accident, especially if it caused a death
These rules apply to all accidents and collisions, no matter how big or small the damage is and no matter who is involved. For example, hitting a dog, or damaging a utility pole, are cases where you caused “property damage” and need to report the accident, even though no one else is visibly involved.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI Hit-and-Run?
If convicted of both charges, you will face the general penalties for DUI, as well as the penalties for a hit-and-run. Both of these penalties combined can drastically affect your life, sometimes even forever.
Penalties for a felony hit-and-run (involving an injury or death) include:
- $1,000 to $10,000 in fines
- Two to four years in state prison if the accident caused a serious injury or death
- Up to one year in county jail if the accident caused a minor injury
Penalties for a misdemeanor hit-and-run (involving only property damage) include:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to six months in county jail
However, you only face these penalties if you get convicted. It is possible to defend against a hit-and-run charge even when connected to a DUI. In fact, prosecutors routinely drop hit-and-run charges if you have a good defense lawyer.
DUI Hit-and-Run Penalties Can Negatively Impact Your Life
A DUI hit-and-run can also result in other consequences aside from fines, jail time, and license restrictions:
- Getting rejected from college
- Getting rejected from a job
- Higher insurance premiums
- Difficulty joining the armed forces
- Difficulty obtaining a loan or other financial services
As illustrated with the list above, the punishment you face from a DUI hit-and-run charge in California doesn’t just end after paying a fine and spending nights in jail. You can deal with the repercussions associated with a DUI hit-and-run for years. For this reason, you’ll want to defend yourself as much as you can against these charges.
How Do I Defend Against a Hit-and-Run Charge?
In order to convict you of hit-and-run, the prosecutor has to prove that you were involved in the accident, that you were aware of the accident, and that you willfully failed to perform one of the duties mentioned above.
For example, you did not pull over, you did not exchange the information the other parties needed, or you did not lend aid to those who were injured. If the prosecutor cannot prove these points, you cannot be convicted. There are several ways you can defend yourself against a DUI hit-and-run charge in California.
You Didn’t Know About the Accident
Sometimes, you either weren’t aware of an accident at all or had no reason to suppose that it caused any injuries. For example, imagine if you inadvertently “cut off” another driver. The other driver may have swerved to avoid you and gone off the road. Depending on the circumstances, you may never have seen this happen or had no reason to believe it involved you.
You Didn’t Leave the Scene Willfully
Sometimes, it’s not safe to stay at the scene of an accident. For example, if the other driver began acting aggressively toward you, or the accident happened in front of their home, and angry neighbors began coming out, you may have left for your safety. This defense is most potent if you still called the police once safely away from the scene.
You Were the Only One Injured
If you were the only person injured, you cannot be convicted of a felony hit-and-run because your actions didn’t cause injury to anyone else. You could still be convicted of a misdemeanor hit-and-run if there was property damage, however.
Other Defenses You Can Use for DUI Hit-and-Runs
There are other possible defenses as well. For example, sometimes, it is possible to argue that you weren’t even involved in the accident at all. The right defense to use depends on the circumstances of your case, and your DUI defense lawyer can choose a strategy that will work best for you.
Remember, hit-and-run charges are hard to prove and often get dropped, especially if you have a good lawyer who knows how to talk to the prosecutor.
What Can a DUI Hit-and-Run Lawyer Do for Me?
Our California DUI hit-and-run attorneys can do many things for your case. We can:
- Gather evidence pertinent to your DUI case
- Represent you and your best interests in court
- Offer prompt legal advice and provide you with information on the legal options available to you
- Help you get the best plea deal if available
- Consult with witnesses and experts and get their supporting testimony
Don’t underestimate the benefits of having a solid lawyer by your side. If you choose to fight for your DUI case alone, the likelihood of losing is very high, especially if you don’t have any legal experience, to begin with.
Schedule an Appointment With a DUI Hit-and-Run Attorney Today
For a free consultation on your DUI case, contact our DUI hit-and-run attorneys today. With years of experience, you can trust our lawyers to dedicate themselves to your case and fight hard against your charges. You can reach us 24/7 over the phone or online through our website.