Hit and Run cases involve several elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted of a violation of a California Vehicle Code. There must be damage to the victim’s vehicle or property. The crime will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the extent of the damages. Also, there must be a lack of information that has been exchanged. The individual being charged must leave their personal contact information in a place where the victim will see it and then therefore can contact the person that hit their vehicle. If there was no damage, or there was an actual exchange of information then the facts will not lend to a convictable Hit and Run.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run cases are filed under California Vehicle Code 20002. Felony cases will be filed under the California Vehicle Code 20003. The extent of the damages will always determine the type of case. If there is a conviction, the penalty imposed will match and be determined by the corresponding CVC 20002 or CVC 20003. The prosecutor will bring the charge against the at fault person in criminal court 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 the charges against the person responsible for the Hit and Run. This is known as the rule of civil compromise. Victims only have personal say in cases that are brought before the California Civil Courts.
A civil compromise is an approach that many Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers use to help reduce the charges of Hit and Run cases. Sometimes this leads to dismissal of the case entirely. A civil compromise is the agreement between the victim and the individual responsible for the Hit and Run. This is where the person being charged agrees to reimburse the victim for the damages, and in return the victim drops the charges of the Hit and Run. For example, a person hits another car while trying to parallel park and causes significant damage. Not being able to afford the damage costs, the person drives away without leaving any contact information. Charges are then brought against the at fault Hit and Run driver. Then in return, the Hit and Run driver gets a criminal defense attorney. The attorney of the Hit and Run driver contacts the victim and works out a deal for the victim to be reimbursed for the damages owed. If the victim agrees to the deal, then it is considered a civil compromise between the two parties. The civil compromise would be presented to the court alongside a compelling argument that all dues were paid by the Hit and Run driver and that all charges should be dropped. Not all civil compromises are successful, but civil compromises are good negotiating power for the person being charged. Hit and Run charges are extremely serious and having any strength in one’s argument can greatly reduce penalties and charges.
Proving a California Hit and Run Accident
In order for a person to be charged and convicted in California, the prosecution must prove two important elements of a Hit and Run. There must be proof of damage to the vehicle hit and also there must have been an exchange of contact information. There are some cases where the direct exchange of information cannot take place. For example, if someone was to hit a parked car where the driver of the vehicle is not present then a note with contact information must be placed where the driver will see it upon getting into their vehicle. If an individual can prove that they tried to leave contact information there could be a chance that the case will be reduced or dismissed. For instance, say you hit a parked car and left your personal contact information on their windshield, but the wind or rain blew it away. You did not fail to leave information; however, the victim did not receive your information so it would be classified as a Hit and Run. Your lawyer can argue the conditions of that particular day and circumstances surrounding the lack of information left at the scene. The argument will show that you attempted to comply with the law but it will be difficult to prove in court.
Sometimes if there is no damage to the vehicle then there cannot be a valid claim for a Hit and Run. For example, if someone claims that you hit their vehicle but the scratches or damages do not match up with any of the damage on your car then there cannot be a case for a Hit and Run. There are specific experts who can determine whether a vehicle has hit another and caused recent damage. There are multiple arguments that could potentially be made to dismiss a Hit and Run case if the required elements are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It can be a difficult task to disprove a Hit and Run case, so hiring an experienced Hit and Run attorney is crucial.
Consequences for Hit and Run Accidents
Potential consequences for Hit and Run cases can vary. The California Vehicle code S20001 makes it unlawful for an individual to damage another person’s property or vehicle with their own vehicle without leaving a note or contact information. The corresponding Vehicle Code also outlines the potential range of consequences for a person who is charged and convicted of a Hit and Run in the state of California. When the property of another individual is damaged, the case will be filed as a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code S20002. The penalties can vary from up to six months’ jail time and up to $1,000 in fines. The final sentence will be decided upon due to the specific facts of the case and the amount of damages to property. For example, if a Hit and Run only has minor scratch damage then the sentence would not be as severe as one where the victims’ whole bummer needs to be replaced.
When the actual damage is done to an individual then the case would be filed under California Vehicle Code S20003 as a felony. Under this section of California law, the potential consequences are much greater than that of a misdemeanor. This can range from imprisonment in a state prison from two to four years, or a fine from $1,000 to $10,000. Sometimes when a case is extremely serious, then both the fine and imprisonment may be applied to the sentence. The final sentence will depend on the extent of the injuries to the victim.
Get Help from an Experienced California Hit and Run Accident Attorney
Recently a Los Angeles news source ran the numbers and estimated that 50 percent of all automobile accidents in the greater Los Angeles area are classified at Hit and Runs. In Los Angeles, a Hit and Run accident occurs about every eighteen minutes. As you can see Hit and Run accidents are very common in the state of California. As most accidents that occur in life, we are seldom expecting them. Even more so, we are usually not prepared to take action immediately following them. That is why speaking to an experienced Hit and Run accident attorney is crucial. Our firm is dedicated to helping our clients through the litigation process following their Hit and Run accident. We take pride in our personalized approach to each and every case we work. Please call our office today to speak with one of our experienced San Diego, California hit and run attorneys.