When you hear of a hit and run, you often think of someone in a vehicle hitting a pedestrian and then driving away, without stopping to help or call 911. While these tragic accidents occur, not all hit and runs are so devastating. Someone can be charged in a hit and run when a minor car accident caused someone else a few scrapes and bruises. A person can be charged with a hit and run even when an accident wasn’t their fault. California takes traffic accidents seriously, and anyone involved in an incident is required by law to stop and provide their basic personal information. If you were in an accident and you made the decision to drive away because you thought everything was OK or it wasn’t necessary to provide your information, contact a San Diego traffic defense attorney right away.
California Vehicle Code Section 2001 states any driver that’s involved in an accident that injures someone other than the driver must immediately stop and give their name, address, vehicle registration number as well as any information regarding the owner of the vehicle. The driver should provide reasonable assistance to anyone injured, including calling 911. They should also provide their information to the police.
If someone does not stop after being involved in accident that causes injury or death, they can be prosecuted for a felony hit and run. The elements of this offense break down into:
- Someone other than the driver was injured or killed
- The driver, whether or not they caused the accident, did not stop
- The driver did not provide their information
You can be charged with a hit and run whether or not you caused the accident. This means, if you’re involved in any traffic accident that might have hurt someone, it’s important to stop driving and stay at the scene. You’ll want to exchange information with the other people involved, if possible, and give a statement to the police.
Examples of a felony hit and run:
- Sarah was changing the radio station and didn’t see the car in front of your suddenly brake. By the time she noticed and braked as well, it was too late to avoid rear-ending the other vehicle. The driver in the other car was pushed forward and hit their airbag. Sarah was afraid of a ticket so she backed up and drove around the other car.
- Tyler ran a stop sign in his neighborhood and hit the back end of a car that had been driving perpendicular to him. The other car spun around and hit a telephone pole. Tyler could tell the other person could be injured but kept on driving.
- Kesha was hit by another car, which sent her into the vehicle in front of her. The other vehicles were clearly damaged and people might have been hurt, but her car was in relatively good condition so she left without giving anyone her information.
If someone is convicted of a felony hit and run where someone was hurt, they can be sent to prison for up to 1 year and fined up to $10,000. If the accident caused someone a permanent serious injury or death, then the defendant could be sentenced to up to 4 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
According to the statute, the court can take into consideration the interests of justice and the defendant’s ability to pay the fine when determining if the minimum statutory punishment is appropriate. Defendants can be fined as little as $1,000 and sentenced to as few as 90 days in a county jail.
The penalty for this crime can depend on the circumstances of accident and the defendant’s criminal record.
There are many consequences to a felony conviction aside from prison or fines. A hit and run adds two points to your driver’s license. If you accumulate four points within 1 year, your license can be suspended for at least 6 months. If you already have a poor driving record, your license could be suspended as part of your punishment for the hit and run.
In addition to losing or potentially losing your license, your auto insurance costs will probably go up. Even when an accident isn’t your fault, you could be subject to higher premiums.
If the accident was your fault and other people were injured or their property was damaged, you might be subject to a civil lawsuit. If your insurance won’t cover the injuries or damage, the victims may sue you directly to recover. The same is true if your actions caused a fatality. The relatives of the deceased can bring a wrongful death suit against you.
The strongest defense available to a defendant will depend on the exact facts of their case. Potential defenses include proving that the defendant wasn’t aware an accident occurred or that anyone had been injured. The defendant can show they were the only one hurt in the accident or that they left the scene of the accident in order to seek medical attention for themselves or a passenger.
Contact a San Diego Traffic Felony Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a felony hit and run, don’t try and tackle the situation yourself. The consequences of a felony are severe and leave you with a permanent criminal record. An experienced defense attorney will get to know you and every facet of the situation. They’ll build you the strongest defense possible under the law and do their best to show flaws in the prosecutor’s case. While they may not be able to prove your innocence, a San Diego criminal defense attorney can attempt to minimize the consequences of a conviction. Call Jessica McElfresh at (858) 756-7107 to learn more about this charge and potential defenses.