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California Hit and Run Law, and how a DUI impacts the charge

If you are accused of a hit and run, a hit and run involving injury or death in violation of Vehicle Code §20001, or a hit and run involving property damage in violation of Vehicle Code §20002 you could face significant punishment; including fines of upwards towards $10,000, and incarceration of up to 4 years if the crime involved bodily injured. If the crime involved property damage, you will face a lesser punishment of up to $1000 and a maximum of 6 months of imprisonment.  What is important to note, is that the vehicle code section for hit and run imposes an almost strict liability type of culpability for this offense. The rule is basically black and white, if you are involved in an accident, and you fail to stop, provide their name and address, or some other way to contact them, that person is guilty of a hit and run. It is not required that you had any kind of ill will towards the victim, the simple act of not providing information is the punishable conduct.

If you are charged with violating the hit and run statute in California, there are a few key pieces of information you should be aware of:

  • A charge of hit and run can be made against you, even if the accident was not caused by you. The mere act of leaving the site of the accident where there was damage to a person or damage to property, without leaving you information with the other person is the crime. It is completely irrelevant who is to blame for the accident; make sure to provide information any time your vehicle contacts another object or person to avoid being charged under this statute.
  • It is a violation of California Vehicle Code §20001 to not provide contact information, even if the injured person is a passenger in your vehicle, and they have no intention of pursuing a claim against you. You must provide in formation any time someone is injured.
  • The exception to this general rule is when you leave the scene to obtain necessary medical treatment from a professional; this will likely insulate you from charges of hit and run.

EXAMPLE:

Becky and Kim are driving together down a windy road where there are very few cars, and even fewer houses along the way. Driving slightly recklessly, Becky takes a turn a little too fast, and the rear of her car knocks down a mailbox. Becky figures since nobody is around, and its unlikely anyone will notice until she is very far away, leaves the scene. Unfortunately, a police officer saw it all happen. Becky can be arrested and convicted of violating California Vehicle Code §20002 because there was an accident involving property damage, and she did not provide her contact information to the owner of the mailbox.

EXAMPLE:

Same facts as above, however in addition to the mailbox being injured Kim is also injured as a result of the slide and the collision. Becky can now be charged with violation of California Vehicle Code §20001, 20002, or both.

EXAMPLE:

Same facts as above, except the injury to Kim was rather substantial and she was bleeding profusely from her ear. If Becky drove away to get Kim to the hospital, it will be difficult for the Prosecution to maintain a charge against Becky for violation of either form of the hit and run statute.

  • It is important to note that California Vehicle Code §20002 does not only apply to property damage to a vehicle, it applies to all property damage. This includes signs, fences, mailboxes, and even pets belonging to other people. If there is any collision between your car and something else, stop and exchange information immediately to avoid the consequences associated with hit and run charges.
  • California Penal Code §1377 provides an opportunity for two parties to resolve a misdemeanor hit and run without the hassle of Court proceedings. This is known as a “civil compromise.” As long as you and the other driver that were involved in the accident can reach an agreement, you will not face incarceration or other court order sanctions.

What Happens if I was Driving Under the Influence at the time I committed a hit and run?

Generally, DUIs are treated as misdemeanors; this general rule becomes questionable when there are aggravating factors present. For purposes of Vehicle Codes §20001 and 20002, there are three relevant aggravating factors that could come up.

  • While driving under the influence, you were in accident where another individual was hurt; this includes passengers in your vehicle.
  • If while driving under the influence, you were involved in an accident; and failed to remain at the scene. In this case you will be charged with aggravated DUI, DUI hit-and-run, and potentially additional charges. If this is what you are accused of, contact an attorney immediately, this particular accusation can result in severe penalties.
  • If while driving under the influence you were involved in an accident which caused property damage.

Perhaps the most serious factor when looking at aggravating factors is the existence of an injury to another person in conjunction with failing to remain at the scene while intoxicated. The penalties associated with this include:

As mentioned above, the penalties associated with a conviction for driving under the influence with bodily injury will vary depending on the Prosecutor, the jurisdiction, and the circumstances surrounding your case. Specifically, the Court will look to any prior convictions you have had for DUI or “wet reckless” offenses in the past 10 years. It should also be noted that there are certain situations in which the Prosecution will absolutely bring the case as a felony (four DUIs in the past 10 years for example). Generally, a simple DUI will be brought as a misdemeanor.

Since there is such a wide range of the degrees of punishment you can face if convicted of a §23153 violation, a list of potential penalties is appropriate.

What are the penalties associated with a conviction for a Misdemeanor DUI Causing Injury Misdemeanor Penalties

  • Monetary sanctions ranging from $350, up to $5,000
  • Informal probation ranging from 3 to 5 years.
  • Restitution to all the victims (this is a fine that goes to the victims of the crime; it is essentially a short cut to the victim to obtain immediate payment while they prepare their case against you in civil court.
  • A Department of Motor Vehicles license suspension for a period ranging from one to three years
  • Incarceration ranging from 5 days up to a maximum of one year.

What are the penalties associated with a conviction for a Felony DUI Causing Injury

  • A monetary sanction of an amount ranging from $1,015 to a maximum of $5,000.
  • A Department of Motor Vehicles license suspension for a period for up to 5 years.
  • Incarceration of two, three, or four years in addition to
  • A period of three to six years in the event the victim suffered serious bodily injury.
  • one year for each person who suffered an injury as the result of your conduct; this number is capped at three additional years.
  • Being labeled as a “Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) for a period of three years.
  • A “strike” for purposes of California’s 3 strikes law Penalties for Hit and Run in California while not under the influence.

California VC20001 (b) (1) a hit and run involving injury to another person: This crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the severity of the damage to the victim. This is known as a “wobbler offense.” The Prosecutor will make the decision of how to bring the charge based on the degree of damage caused by your conduct. Penalties associated with a misdemeanor conviction for this statute include:

  • Incarceration for a maximum of 1 year;
  • Monetary sanctions ranging from one thousand to ten thousand dollars; or
  • A fine and incarceration.

If you are convicted of a felony violation of California Vehicle Code §20001(b) (1) you may face the following penalties:

  • A maximum of 3 years jail time;
  • A fine with the same range as a conviction for a misdemeanor of this statute; or
  • Both penalties.

CVC20001 (b) (2) - Hit-and-Run resulting in SBI or Death: Much like the lesser offense of simple injury, a violation of this statute can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of your case. The Prosecutor will make this determination based on the culpability of your conduct. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor violation of California Vehicle Code §20001(b) (2) you will face the following possible punishments:

  • Incarceration ranging from ninety days up to one year;
  • A monetary sanction ranging between one thousand dollars and ten thousand dollars; or
  • A combination of jail time and a fine.

If you are convicted of a felony violation of California Vehicle Code §2001(b) (2), you may face the following punishments:

Incarceration for 2, 3, or 4 years;

  • A fine of between one thousand dollars and ten thousand dollars; or
  • A combination of both
  • If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter, you will face an additional 5 years of incarceration.

If you have been charged with a hit and run involving a DUI, property damage, or injury to a person, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Law Firm immediately so we can begin building the strongest defense available for you. Call us at 424-285-5400

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