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Newport Beach Hit and Run Lawyers

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A hit and run offense seems self-explanatory: A driver crashes into another vehicle or property and leaves the scene. But California laws apply to a range of behaviors, not just fleeing from the scene of an accident. When two or more vehicles collide, or when someone crashes into property, all people involved must adhere to their legal duties. Failing to do everything the law requires of a driver involved in a collision – even if the driver was not at fault – can lead to a hit and run arrest.

Depending on the circumstances, Newport Beach hit and run cases are prosecuted under California Vehicle Code §§ 20001 or 20002. The Law Offices of Randy Collins represents drivers charged with these offenses.

If you’ve been accused of fleeing from an accident or failing to fulfill your lawful duties, discuss defenses that might be available to you by contacting us at (844) 285-9559 today.

What’s California’s Hit and Run Law?

In California, a hit and run is defined as fleeing the scene or refusing to provide identification after an accident causing injury or property damage. The distinction between a misdemeanor and felony hit and run lies in who or what was injured.

Under California Vehicle Code § 20002 VC, a misdemeanor hit and run occurs when an accident results in property damage only. According to California Vehicle Code § 20001 VC, a felony hit and run is one in which the accident resulted in injury to another person.

Can You Get Arrested for a Hit and Run?

Because a hit and run is a violation of California law, it’s possible a person can be arrested for engaging in such conduct.

A person may be arrested for misdemeanor hit and run if they:

  • Failed to perform any required duty under California law,
  • Knew that they were involved in an accident that caused or probably caused property damage, and
  • The failure to perform the duty was lawful.

An arrest for felony hit and run may occur in accidents involving factors similar to those listed above, except that another person was injured or killed rather than only property being damaged.

Can You Go to Jail for a Hit and Run?

As mentioned before, a hit and run can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Thus, if a person is convicted, they could face jail or prison time. Whether they’re sent to jail or prison depends on the level of charge levied against them.

To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • A car crash happened,
  • The offender was conscious that the accident took place,
  • Property (building, cars, etc.) was damaged (misdemeanor), or
  • A person was injured or killed (felony), and
  • The offender fled the scene, or
  • The offender refused to provide identifying documents

Upon a conviction, the offender faces a range of penalties. A court may impose punishments and stipulations regardless of whether or not the defendant caused the accident.

If the offender is convicted of misdemeanor hit and run, they face:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Up to 3 years’ informal probation
  • Victim restitution
  • Up to 2 points DMV reduction on driver’s license

If the offender is convicted of felony hit and run, penalties include:

  • 16 months or 2 or 3 years in prison (accident resulted in injury)
  • 2, 3, or 4 years in prison (accident resulted in death)
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Victim restitution
  • Up to 2 points DMV reduction on driver’s license

Statute of Limitations for Hit and Run in California

The statute of limitations provides the time limit a prosecutor has to pursue a case. For misdemeanor hit and run offenses, prosecution must commence within 1 year after the crime was committed (California Penal Code § 802).

If a hit and run is considered a felony, the prosecutor has 3 years after its commission to start the case (California Penal Code § 801).

Duties Following a Car Accident

California law imposes several duties upon drivers involved in accidents causing property damage or injury. A driver is considered “involved” in an accident if they were logically connected to it, even if their car did not collide with another vehicle, property, or person.

The duties do not depend on whether the driver was at fault or whether the accident was avoidable. Any accident in which an individual’s property was damaged or another person was injured triggers lawful responsibilities for all drivers involved.

Under California law, any person involved in an accident must do the following:

Accident Causing Property Damage

  • Stop at the scene of the accident as soon as is reasonably possible under the circumstances
  • Provide the property owner with their name and current residential address
  • Upon request, show their driver’s license to the property owner
  • If the driver was not driving their own vehicle, provide the name and current residential address of the vehicle’s owner
  • If the property owner cannot be immediately located, leave the required information in a note placed conspicuously on the damaged property, and promptly report the accident to the city police or the Highway Patrol (if the accident did not occur within city limits).

Accident Causing Injury to Someone Else

  • Stop at the scene of the accident as soon as is reasonably possible under the circumstances
  • Provide reasonable assistance to every injured person
  • Upon request, show driver’s license to the injured person(s) or law enforcement officials on the scene
  • Provide the injured person or police officer with the name and address of the vehicle’s owner as well as the vehicle registration number
  • Identify all occupants of the driver’s vehicle who were injured
  • Promptly notify an appropriate law enforcement agency of the accident

Most hit and run offenses involve collisions, but any driving that leads to an accident triggers the duties described above. For instance, if a person swerved into another driver’s lane, running that driver off the road and into a lamppost, the person must stop and take the actions described above.

Possible Defense to Hit and Run Accusations

Because “running” is not necessarily part of a hit and run charge, the defense mounted will depend on the facts, including those the prosecutor can or cannot prove.

Possible defenses include:

  • The accused did not know, and had no reason to know, that the accident occurred.
  • The accused did not know, and had no reason to believe, that injury and/or property damaged occurred during the accident.
  • The accused was not driving.
  • The assistance the accused provided to an injury victim, even if minimal, was reasonable under the circumstances.
  • The accused stopped when it was reasonable to do so under the circumstances (because stopping earlier would have been dangerous).
  • The accused made reasonable attempts to timely notify the police under the circumstances.
  • The accused made reasonable attempts to give the required information to the other person(s) involved in the accident but could not do so for reasons that were beyond the accused’s control.
  • The accused was injured in the accident and reasonably obtained medical care before reporting the accident.
  • The accused was unable to comply with their duties due to a loss of consciousness or other medical condition.
  • The accused complied with all duties and is being falsely accused of failing to do so.

Because every case is different, other defenses might also be available.

Help Fighting Your Hit and Run Charge

If you’ve been charged with a hit and run offense, the fear of not knowing what could happen can be paralyzing. At The Law Offices of Randy Collins, we provide every caller and client with the personal attention they need to feel secure throughout their case.

If you have questions, our Newport Beach hit and run lawyers are here to help during a free consultation. Contact us at (844) 285-9559 today.

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