Hit and Run in California



Hit and run incidents have been on the rise for several years now.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted research that revealed hit and run fatalities have increased on average by almost 7% since the last decade. In 2016 alone, the organization recorded a total of 337 hit and run fatalities in California. This translates to almost one fatality a day in California. Most victims of hit and run are pedestrians or bicyclists. These statistics imply that the chances of you getting involved in a hit and run quite high. This is why it is important to know some legal details surrounding the issue.

What Does a Hit and Run Entail?

As we discussed in a similar post, apart from the fatalities, a hit and run can also involve a less serious incidence. However, this does not mean that minor incidences can be written off by the law. California’s Vehicle Code Sections 20001, 20002, and 20003 clearly explain that if a motorist damages any one’s property or vehicle without notifying the owners, they are liable for either felony or misdemeanor charges. For an incident to be called a hit and run, it must fulfill two basic requirements:

·       First of all, there has to be evident damage to property or an individual, and

·       There has to be a lack of exchange of information between the culprit and the victim.

Anything short of these two requirements can easily be dismissed off by a court. Knowing these two basic elements can help the accused remedy his situation as soon as possible. According to sections 20001 and 20002 of the California Vehicle Code, the proper way to handle a hit and run is to stop the vehicle, identify yourself to the owner or reasonably try to locate them, then provide your license and vehicle registration details. This specifically deals with damage to property. If you are involved in a more complex accident that has resulted in death or injury, the law requires you to provide reasonable assistance to the victim and contact the nearest police department within 24 hours as an added requirement. Whether prosecution will charge you with a misdemeanor or felony will significantly depend on the facts of the case and other special considerations such as any prior arrests. Keep in mind that a misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year in jail while a felony carries a higher penalty of up to four years in county jail.

How to Deal with a Hit and Run

Now that we know what a hit and run entails, it is also important to look at ways we can handle the situation. Individuals charged with a hit and run often hope that the victims will not press charges.

Consider a Civil Compromise

The first thing you may want to consider is reaching out to the victim for a civil compromise. A civil compromise is an agreement between you and the victim to reduce the charges or drop the charges entirely upon compensation or reimbursement.  The best way to do this is to contact an experienced lawyer who will guide you through the process. Your attorney will proceed to court and present a strong case for you to have the charges reduced or dropped in a civil court. Unfortunately, a civil compromise may not necessarily get you out of the gutter. Even if a victim does not press charges, the State prosecution may still proceed with the case to a criminal court. In such instances, the victim has no say in the matter unless the case is remanded back to a civil court.

Here are other tips that may help you evade charges:

·       Do not turn yourself in to the police as this is a form of self-incrimination. Know the facts of the case first and have a lawyer by your side so that they can negotiate with the police and hopefully stop the situation from spiraling.

·       Do not make false statements to the police or the victim, no matter how at fault you are. You may be tempted to lie and say that the car was stolen or maybe you were ill, but these statements may come back to make your case even more difficult

·       Make sure you consult your attorney BEFORE exchanging information and calling the police

·       Do not agree to speak to the police at your residence or workplace without the presence of a legal counsel. This is within your legal rights

·       Remember to write down every single detail concerning the incident while it is still fresh in your mind. Even if you cannot see any means to your freedom, a good lawyer should be able to work a loophole or defense from your case.

Nevertheless, a hit and run carries several consequences including hurting your record and a possible criminal record. The best way to handle a hit and run situation is to call an experienced attorney like Don Hammond who can get the best possible deal for your case.