Penalties for a Hit and Run in California
When you’re behind the wheel of a car, it’s your duty to your fellow drivers, as well as pedestrians, bikers, and anyone else on the road, to drive as safely as possible. This means that you aren’t driving under the influence, speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, using your phone, or otherwise driving recklessly.
Sometimes, even when drivers are being careful, however, accidents happen. They may hit another car, an object, or a person while on the road. Whether a driver hits someone or another car, or they’re in a parking lot and they hit something and the damage seems minor, the driver has to take action. They need to admit that an accident happened and try to rectify the situation. Otherwise, they could be charged with a hit and run, which has serious penalties like jail time and large fines in the state of California.
Here’s some more information on hit and runs, the consequences of committing this crime, and what to do if you are charged with a hit and run.
What Is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run occurs if you are behind the wheel and you hit:
- Another person
- Another car
- An object
Then, once you knowingly hit a person or thing, you don’t stop to give your information. This means that if you hit a car while driving, you don’t pull to the side of the road to give the other driver your information, including your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information. Or, if you hit an object in a retail parking lot, you don’t make any attempt to contact a store manager or building owner and let them know what happened. If you hit another car in a parking lot, then it’s up to you to leave a note with your name, phone number, and other contact information. If you hit someone and injured them, then calling 9-1-1 and assisting the injured party (if you can) is crucial.
Trying to find a car or object’s owner, taking photos of the scene of the accident, writing down what happened, looking for nearby cameras, and filing a police report are all measures you should take as well. If you fail to take the proper steps, then you could get in trouble and face misdemeanor or felony hit and run charges.
Misdemeanor and Felony Hit and Run Penalties
Hit and run is a wobbler law in California. A wobbler is a law that could either be a misdemeanor or a felony. If you hit another vehicle or an object, then you’ll be charged with misdemeanor hit and run. If you’re found guilty, the penalties are:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
If you hit a person, then you could be charged with misdemeanor hit and run or felony hit and run. For a misdemeanor, the penalties are:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine between $1,000 and $10,000
If you’re facing felony hit and run charges, the consequences are:
- 16 months to three years in state prison
- A fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000
Additionally, the DMV could suspend your license if you don’t report a car accident within 10 days if someone got injured or killed, or if the damage to property exceeded $1,000. You could face more severe criminal charges as well if you were driving under the influence, you killed someone when you hit them, or you were engaging in other illegal activities while behind the wheel.
Keep in mind that even though you are dealing with hit and run charges, there is hope. The burden of proof is on the prosecutor to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of a hit and run. And if they can’t, then your charges will either be reduced or dropped altogether.
Civil Consequences of a Hit and Run
Even if your charges are dropped, you could still have to contend with the civil consequences of a hit and run accident, too. The person you allegedly harmed could go after your insurance company for damages, including their medical expenses, damage to their vehicle and personal belongings, and their pain and suffering. If it’s shown that you intentionally or recklessly caused the hit and run, then they could win punitive damages as well. Your insurance rates could go up, or the person could come after you personally to cover their bills.
If your work involves a car – for example, you’re a truck driver or delivery person – then this could have a negative impact on your employment, too. You may not be able to get your commercial license either. If you simply need your car to get to work every day, then you may not be able to use it if your license is suspended. If you’re worried about the criminal and civil consequences of a hit and run, then it’s important to talk to an experienced Oakland criminal defense attorney to see how they can help.
How Prosecutors Try to Prove Hit and Run Charges
First of all, the prosecutor has to demonstrate that you were driving and that a hit and run accident actually occurred. That accident must have resulted in damage to a car or another piece of property, or the injury or death of a person. They also have to show that you knew an accident occurred, and you didn’t stop and offer your information and/or assistance.
Defenses to Hit and Run Charges
You can only be proven guilty of a hit and charge if you knew that one occurred. If you weren’t aware that you hit someone or something and caused damage, then the charges will likely not hold up. In another scenario, maybe you hit something, but you didn’t see any damage to another vehicle or an object when you inspected the scene. You didn’t see that when you hit another car, it started leaking, the tires became misaligned, you broke a light bulb, or you left a little scratch. Thus, you didn’t leave a note. Perhaps it was unsafe to stop where the hit-and-run took place as well.
If you were not driving when the hit and run happened, then you would not be held responsible. Perhaps your spouse or your sibling took your car out and they caused the hit and run; they would be the responsible party. In a more extreme example, you car might have been stolen, and the person who stole it was responsible for the hit and run.
It’s important to hand over any evidence of your innocence to your Oakland criminal defense attorney. Using your alibi, pictures you took of the scene, video footage from nearby cameras, and other proof, they can try to get your charges dropped.
Will My Hit and Run Case Go to Trial?
Usually, most criminal cases do not end up going to trial. This is because the criminal justice system is already backed up, and prosecutors and judges would rather figure out another solution. Therefore, it’s possible that you could do a plea bargain instead.
A plea bargain involves working with the prosecutor and pleading guilty or no contest to some or all of the charges. In exchange, your charges could be reduced or dropped. You may get less time in jail or prison, a smaller fine, or not have any penalties at all.
Instead of doing a plea bargain, your attorney may also choose to take your case to trial and fight the charges.
It all depends on the circumstances surrounding your case, as well as your Oakland criminal defense attorney’s skills and experience. You will decide together what to do.
If you choose an attorney with excellent case results and ample experience with hit and run and other criminal cases, then you have a much better chance of seeing a favorable outcome with your case.
Should I Use the Court-Appointed Attorney?
When you’re facing any kind of criminal charges, you have three options: Represent yourself, use the free court-appointed attorney, or hire your own attorney.
Representing yourself is never a good idea. You don’t know the ins and outs of the law, and you aren’t prepared to negotiate with the prosecutor. This is a very risky choice, and you could end up going away for the maximum amount of time or paying the highest fines because you are inexperienced.
Using the court-appointed attorney is your next option. These attorneys are competent, but the problem is because the criminal justice system is so overrun, they are overwhelmed, too. They could be dealing with dozens of cases at once. This means they won’t have the time and energy to devote to your case, even if they want to. You’ll be treated like a number instead of a person, and you won’t get the proper representation you need at this time.
While an Oakland criminal defense attorney costs money, you’re making an investment in your future. They will give your case the attention it deserves and be there for you when you need them. This is a frightening and confusing time, and being able to reach out to your attorney whenever you need to talk is going to make a world of difference. Your attorney will fight for you all the way. In addition, they might have good relationships with prosecutors and judges, which will be beneficial to your case.
The penalties of a hit and run don’t just stop at the time you spend behind bars or the big fines you have to pay. They could have life-altering consequences after you’ve served your sentence as well. You could have to deal with issues like not being able to rent an apartment or pay for college or get a job because of your criminal record. With a skilled Oakland criminal defense attorney on your side, you’ll have the best chance possible of securing a bright future ahead.
Hiring an Oakland Criminal Defense Attorney
To find an Oakland criminal defense attorney, look for one who has several years of experience dealing with criminal cases and has excellent case results. Elliot Silver of Silver Law Firm could be the ideal fit for you, whether you’re faced with hit and run charges or additional charges as well.
For instance, perhaps after a hit and run happened, the police chased after you and you didn’t pull over to the side of the road. This is called evading, and it could lead to even more time behind bars. In one Silver Law Firm case, a man was charged with felony evading after a high-speed chase with the police. This left him wide open to significant criminal penalties like jail time and a strike on his record. Elliot Silver saw the opportunity to help this client. He convinced his client to undergo 90 days of in-patient alcohol treatment, and he negotiated to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. This meant that his client didn’t have to spend time behind bars.
In another related case, an underage client was dealing with DUI charges. This 18-year-old’s future college plans were suddenly at stake, so he hired Elliot Silver to help him. The young man allegedly blew a .02 BAC when he was pulled over and was worried about California’s strict zero-tolerance policy, which would usually include a one-year license suspension. Once retained, skilled DUI attorney Elliot Silver moved quickly. He got the case dismissed, which was not an easy undertaking. This included a complete reinstatement of his client’s license, which allowed the young man to move on without a stain on his record.
Elliot is prepared to assist you as well to try and secure a favorable outcome for your case. If you’ve been charged with a hit and run or any other criminal charges and need representation, reach out to Oakland criminal defense attorney Elliot Silver today at (510) 995-0000 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He looks forward to helping you with your case.