According to Vehicle Code 20001, after an accident, the involved drivers must pull over, remain at the accident scene, and offer assistance to the accident victims. When the case involves deaths, the law requires the driver to call the law enforcement officers. Fleeing after the accident will attract a Hit and run charge. The involved parties must stop immediately after the accident regardless of who is at fault.
However, many drivers do not obey the law when an accident occurs. Do not keep quiet if you or your loved family members face injuries in a hit-and-run accident in Sacramento. Speak with an accident attorney and start a process to sue the involved driver and recover the damages and injuries you suffered. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we are ready to help you. Our attorneys are experienced in handling accident cases.
What Does Hit-and-Run Legally Mean?
The term hit-and-run means leaving the accident scene immediately after causing an accident. Determining whether you are at fault in the accident comes later after investigations. The law provides basics on what you should do or not do when you commit an accident. California hit and run cases are addressed under VC 20001-20003. You violate the statute when you:
- Fail to call the authority and render aid after an accident.
- Commit an accident resulting in injuries and property damages.
- Fail to exchange information or stop after an accident.
Examples of Felony Hit and Run Crimes in California
- James ran a stoplight and hit the back of the car, driving perpendicular to him. The hit car spun around, hitting a telephone pole. James notices what he has done but instead keeps on driving.
- Jane starts changing her car radio. As she changes the radio, the car at the front brakes suddenly. It is late when she decides to brake, and she rear-ends the vehicle. The driver in the other car hits the airbag and sustains severe injuries. She becomes afraid of the accident and decides to drive away.
Your Duties After an Accident
When an accident occurs, and people sustain injuries or die, the law requires you to behave differently. You have to stop at the accident scene and exchange your identification details with the involved parties. In addition, you must provide aid to the injured victims by ensuring they receive medical care. In cases where the accident had fatalities, you should call the law enforcement officers.
The above requirements apply to any accident resulting in fatalities and injuries regardless of the party at fault. So, even in cases where you believe the other driver was entirely responsible for the accident and the driver suffered minor injuries, the court may still charge you with hit and run when you violate the above requirements.
Many people in California face felony hit and run charges because they make a mistake by failing to stop after an accident since they believe they are not responsible for the accident. After an accident, ensure you remain calm and follow the necessary laws even if you hurry. A slight mistake might land you in a big problem shortly! Remember to consult your attorney if you do not know what to do after the accident.
You will face harsh penalties when you face a conviction for a felony hit and run, resulting in injuries. The penalties will include remaining behind bars for 12 months and paying a fine not exceeding $10,000. Again, if the accident leads to permanent injuries, you will remain behind bars for up to 4 years. In addition, you will pay a fine not exceeding $10,000.
When determining the statutory penalties, the court may consider your ability to pay the set fine. The court may reduce the fine to as low as $1000, and the county jail reduced to 3 months. Also, the penalties for the crime can depend on the nature of the accident and your criminal record.
Apart from facing hectic fines and extensive jail terms, a felony hit-and-run conviction can attract other consequences. For example, the crime will attract two points on your driver's license. When you receive four points within one year, the state court can suspend your license for at least six months. When the court notices you have a poor driving license, they can use the suspension as part of the punishment.
In addition to losing your license permanently, your auto insurance costs might increase. You might become subject to the huge premium even when it was not your fault. Again, you might become subject to a lawsuit if the liability was not yours, but the victims sustained injuries. The alleged victim can sue you when your insurance agency fails to cover the damages or injuries.
Legal Defenses For Felony Hit and Run
Hit and run come with severe penalties, as discussed above. However, you can still fight the charges. Your attorney can use legal defenses to fight your felony hit and run based on certain cases. The legal defenses your attorney may raise to fight the charges include:
Your defense attorney may argue that you were tricked into taking a substance that made you later become intoxicated. The defense will not work unless your attorney has strong evidence to prove the claim. You will have to prove that you consumed drunks and were forced to consume the substance for the defense to work. As per California law, involuntary intoxication is a form of unconsciousness. If you were unconscious when committing a crime, the prosecutor could not prove your intent to commit the crime. With a knowledgeable attorney, you will beat the charges.
Responding to an Emergency
Your attorney might argue you fled the accident scene to respond to an emergency. For example, you might claim you were driving someone to the hospital. The specific jurisdiction will determine whether the circumstances constitute an emergency to use the defense. Again, you may argue that your pregnant wife was in labor and rushed to the hospital; this is enough to justify why you could not stop after hitting another person's property. When this is your case, the court may consider reducing the charge to a less severe form.
Lack of Knowledge
To face conviction for hit and run depends on whether you caused severe injuries or damages. Based on your actions, the prosecutor will prove whether you were aware of what occurred. It is reasonable to argue you did not know you caused a severe accident that resulted in injuries or deaths. This may happen when your vehicle was not directly involved in a traffic collision. The prosecutor must prove that you knew that the accident resulted in severe injuries. There is little to work with without knowledge, and your case may be dismissed.
Stolen or Borrowed Car
The defense may work for you when someone else was driving your vehicle, whether borrowed or stolen, and caused a hit-and-run accident. You want to raise this defense. As per California laws, you can face a conviction for hit and run when driving the offending vehicle or a passenger in a car that fled the accident scene. However, you must provide evidence to support your claim. For instance, you can argue the vehicle was stolen, and you had even reported the case to the police officers. You may obtain a report from the officers to support that your car was stolen during the offense.
You Were the Only Victim Sustaining Injuries
As discussed above, under the elements of the crime, the victims of the crime can only file a lawsuit against you when they suffer injuries or property damage. So, when you are the only party sustaining injuries, you will have a valid defense. Your attorney can support the claim by gathering evidence to show no other victim apart from you. The court will consider dropping or reducing the charge.
What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
After you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, you want to observe certain things to protect yourself and your interests. What you do will be important when seeking compensation from the at-fault party. Below are the steps you want to take immediately after a crash:
Stop to Determine Whether Anyone is Hurt
Even after a minor accident, never leave the scene. If your car collides with another vehicle, it's your responsibility to stop. Remember, your safety comes first. If you are not too hurt, check yourself for injuries. Again, you want to ensure the passengers in your car are alright. If anyone is injured, then contact the emergency services. Failure to stop after the accident will attract a Hit and run charge.
Move to a Safe Place and Call The Police
If you are not severely injured, you want to move to a safe place on the side of the road after a hit-and-run accident. Keep reflective emergency triangles. Once the other drivers see the sign, they will slow down. However, if your accident is severe and occurs at the center of a busy road, you can remain in your vehicle. Relocating could put your life in danger.
Even when no severe injuries resulted from the crash, you want to call the law enforcement officers. Dial 911 and wait for the officers to arrive. When they come, answer any questions to help the officers file a report. Again, note their officer's name, contact information, and badge number when the law enforcement officers arrive. They will document the scene and fill out an accident report. Remember to pick a copy of the law enforcement officer's report.
Collect Vital Information
After a hit and run, the police will find it difficult to trace the other driver if you don’t assist them with strong leads or information. Following an accident, use your mobile phone to take photos of the accident scene. You can also document everything you remember about the accident, including the car's make, model, color, license number plate, the driver’s appearance, and the circumstances of the crash. Look for evidence of their vehicle, like a broken-off piece of the car's body. You can also take pictures of your car's damage and your injuries. Lastly, you want to ask nearby witnesses for detail and collaborate that the other driver fled.
Seek Medical Assistance
Injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents are not immediately apparent. Most people report feeling the most pain two days after an accident. After a hit and run accident, you want to visit a medical expert for a checkup, even when you suffer minor injuries. Visiting the hospital is essential for your overall health when filing a personal injury lawsuit. The medical report would help document all the injuries you sustain. The sustained injuries will help to prove that you deserve compensation. Do not assume when you feel okay do not assume; visit your medical care provider.
Notify Your Insurance Company
After a hit and run accident, you want to notify your insurance company from the accident scene, especially in an accident resulting in property damage or injuries. Your agents will tell you what they will need when filing a claim. Again they can also prepare you for what to expect during the claim process. You can also let your attorney inform the insurance company if you sustained severe injuries.
Contact A Lawyer
The first step to claiming your compensation is to compile a report and understand what to include in the claim in a hit-and-run accident. You want to hire an attorney with many years of experience to communicate with the insurance company. The attorney will ensure you obtain just compensation for your losses. Remember handling the case might be a challenging situation.
So, you want to work with the attorney until the case trial. The process of obtaining compensation is complex. Without the legal help of a skilled attorney, you might receive lower compensation than you deserve.
Offenses Related to Felony Hit and Run
The crime of felony hit and run can be charged alongside other related Offenses. For instance, a misdemeanor hit and run come with less severe punishment becoming an option for felony hit and run. However, the crimes have varied sentencing options. The following are the related offense to felony hit and run in California:
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
A misdemeanor hit and run involve the driver committing an accident leading to damage of any property like a vehicle and leaving the scene without exchanging information with the involved driver. Like in felony hit-and-run cases, the driver must stop immediately after an accident and offer assistance.
For you to face conviction for a misdemeanor hit and run, the prosecution team must prove the elements of the crime. The following are the potential elements of the crime:
- You committed an accident while operating a vehicle
- The accident resulted in property damage
- You knew you committed the accident but failed to stop immediately at the accident scene
The Legal Penalties for Misdemeanor Hit and Run
When you violate VC 20002, you will become guilty of misdemeanor hit and run. Therefore, you will face the following penalties:
- Remaining behind bars in a county jail for six months
- A fine not exceeding $1000
- Paying a restitution fee
Legal Defenses for Misdemeanor Hit and Run
You and your criminal defense attorney can use various defenses to fight the charge. First, you need to review your case with the attorney to know the best defense which suits your case. Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney is highly recommended for the best outcomes of your case. The following are the common legal defenses you can use to fight a misdemeanor hit and run charge:
- Lack of knowledge. Remember, the intent is one of the critical elements of the crime. So, you cannot face conviction if you did not intend to commit the crime. But proving intent might be a challenge. That's why you must work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
- The alleged damaged property was yours. You cannot face conviction for Misdemeanor Hit and run when the property in question was yours. However, your attorney must prove that the alleged property belonged to you before the court.
- You were not operating the vehicle at the time of the offense. Your attorney may argue your car was stolen at the offense. However, your attorney must present evidence to support you were not operating the vehicle when the accident occurred.
Driving Under the Influence
Driving under the influence is another crime charged alongside felony hit and run. You will face a DUI charge when you drive a car with a BAC level beyond the limit. According to the law, you will face a DUI charge when operating with a BAC above 0.08%. When the police arrest you over this crime, speak with your attorney to help you fight the charge.
The Penalties for DUI
The punishment and penalties for the crime will vary based on several factors. For example, the penalties might depend on whether you submitted for the blood test, your criminal record, and where a victim suffered injuries after causing the DUI-related accident. The law groups the penalties under the three categories as follows:
1st DUI Offense
You will face a misdemeanor charge when it's your first DUI offense. The penalties will include:
- Jail period for up to six months
- Fine of up to $1000
- Probation for up to 36 months
2nd DUI Offense
You will face a second DUI offense charge when the court convicts you with a second misdemeanor offense within ten years after the initial DUI offense. The penalties will be harsher than the first-time offenders. They include:
- A jail term of up to 12 months
- A fine of up to $1000
- A probation term for a period between three and five years
3rd DUI Offense
A third DUI offense will come with harsh penalties, including:
- A jail term of up to 12 months
- Fine not exceeding $1000
- License revocation for ten years
Defenses for DUI
You can fight the DUI charges with the help of a well-skilled attorney. The attorney can argue the following defenses to ensure you fight the charges:
- The BAC reading by the tests was inaccurate. Sometimes the BAC reading might be inaccurate because of external factors like a temperature rise. Therefore when this is your case, your attorney may use the defense to fight the charges.
- The police violated your rights. Everyone in California has rights that the police should not Violate during an arrest. So, when the law enforcement officers violate your Miranda rights, you can use this defense to fight the charge.
What Will Happen When the Police Cannot Locate the Driver Involved in the Hit and Run?
Due to the nature of the accident, the law enforcement officers may not locate the liable driver. The law allows you to recover from your underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist policy when this is your case. When the insurance company offers you less settlement, you may file a lawsuit to receive damages up to your policy limit. Once the police locate the alleged driver after the insurance company has covered you, the law allows them to go after the driver and recover their damages. The procedure is known as subrogation.
If the court discovers the other driver and finds they were not covered by auto insurance, they will charge the driver. It's a misdemeanor offense to operate a vehicle without an updated insurance policy. Remember to work with your accident attorney to help throughout the legal process.
According to the law, you have 24 months to file a lawsuit against the defendant from the collision date. When you fail to file the case within this period, you can permanently give up your rights to obtain compensation for the damages and injuries suffered.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
When you face a felony hit and run crime, you want to speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorney will review your case and determine the best option available. Remember to keep all the evidence you have. The evidence is helpful when seeking compensation for the damages and injuries suffered.
At Foos Gavin Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys can help you fight the felony hit and run charge. We have defended numerous people facing similar charges in Sacramento. Contact us at 916-779-3500 for a free case evaluation.