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Southern California Hit and Run


California Vehicle Codes §20001, §20002 and §20003 make it unlawful for a person to damage another’s vehicle or property without notifying the other person of their name and address if the other person is not present at the time of the accident.

Elements of a Hit and Run Case

There are several elements that must be proven in a hit and run case beyond a reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted of a violation of the Vehicle Code.

First and foremost, there must be damage to the victim’s vehicle or property. The extent of the damage will determine whether the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and the appropriate penalty.

Additionally, there must also be a lack of exchange of information. The person who is being charged must leave his or her personal contact information in a place where the victim can see and able to contact the person who caused the damage.

If there is no damage, or if there was an exchange of information, then the facts will not reach the level of a convictable Hit and Run.

Misdemeanor or Felony

Misdemeanor cases are filed under California Vehicle Code 20002, and felonies will be filed under California Vehicle Code 20003. Whether a hit and run case is filed as a misdemeanor or felony will be determined by the extent of the damage done to the victim’s property and the specific facts of the case.

If there is a conviction, the penalty imposed will also be determined based on the facts of the case, and whether it is charged under CVC 20002 or 20003.

Civil Compromise

When a Hit and Run case has been filed against a person in criminal court the charge is brought by the Prosecutor on behalf of the State of California. The case before the criminal court does not involve the victim. Even if the victim agrees to drop the case, the prosecutor may still bring charges against the person for hit and run. The victim only has a say in a case that is brought before the Civil Court.

What is a Civil Compromise in a Hit and Run

A civil compromise is an approach used by many Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers to help reduce the charges of a Hit and Run, or dismiss the case entirely. A Civil compromise is an agreement between the victim and the person being charged that the victim agrees that charges should be dropped because all reimbursements have been paid or will be paid.

For example, Let’s say that Dan hits a person’s car as he is parallel parking causing significant damage. Not being able to afford expenses, he does not leave his contact information and drives away. Charges are brought against Dan, and he hires a DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney. The attorney contacts the victim and works out a deal so that Dan will pay the victim what is owed for the damage of the car and the victim agrees to a civil compromise.

The attorney presents the civil compromise to the court along with a powerful argument claiming that Dan has paid his dues and corrected the damage of his actions and therefore the hit and run charges should be dropped.

A civil compromise is not always successful in having a case dismissed but it most certainly adds to negotiation power for the person being charged. The consequences of a hit and run are very serious, and having any strength in an argument for reduced penalties and charges is extremely beneficial.

Legal Defenses

For a person to be charged and convicted under California Vehicle Code §20001 the Prosecution must prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt. They must show that there was damage to either property or person caused by the person being charged, and that they failed to leave any kind of contact information.

Good Faith Effort

If the person charged can prove that they tried to leave contact information, there may be a chance that the case will be reduced or dismissed. For example, let’s say you accidentally hit someone’s car with yours and you leave your name and number and contact information on the windshield. However, it can be a windy day and the wind blows away the information that you leave. You have not failed to leave information, but the person whose car is damaged never receives the information to contact you, so it is a hit and run. An argument can be made that you attempted to comply with the law but it will be difficult to prove in court.

Lack of Damage

If there is no damage to the vehicle, there cannot be a valid claim for Hit and Run. For example, if a person claim that you have hit their car, but the scratches do no match up with any damage on your car, and it seems that the damage occurred years before, there cannot be a case for Hit and Run. It may be a difficult case to prove in court, however there are experts who can determine whether a vehicle has hit another vehicle and if the damage was recently caused or is from a previous accident.

There are many different arguments that could be made to dismiss a Hit and Run case if the required elements cannot be proven. Although it may be difficult to prove, an experienced Hit and Run lawyer knows how to weaken Prosecution’s case.

Potential Consequences

The California Vehicle code §20001 makes it unlawful for a person to damage another person’s vehicle or property, with their vehicle without leaving any kind of contact information. The relevant Vehicle Code sections also outline a potential range of consequences for a person who is charged and convicted of a Hit and Run in Southern California.

Misdemeanor Hit and Run

When the damage done is to property, the case will be filed as a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code §20002. The legislative range of penalties varies from jail time up to six (6) months and up to a $1,000 in fines, or both.

Where the final sentence will fall will be determined by the facts of the case and the extent of the damage to property. For example, a case in which another car is scratched there will be minimal jail time, if any and a fine closer to the lower end of the range. In contrast, a case in which a person has completely damaged a person’s home or front yard, the penalty will likely include some jail time and a fine closer to $1,000.

Felony Hit and Run

When the damage is to a person, the case will be filed under California Vehicle Code §20003 as a felony. Under this section, the potential consequences range from imprisonment in state prison from two to four years, or in county jail from 90 days up to one year, or a fine from $1,000 to $10,000, or both.

The final sentence will be determined by the extent of injury to the person. If the person has suffered minor bruises or a sprain, then the charge will still be a felony, but will be at the lower end of potential consequences. In comparison, if the person suffers serious bodily injury, such as internal tissue damage, the penalty will involved time in state prison and a fine closer to $10,000.