Being in a car accident is a shock to a person’s system, and in the rush of adrenaline and fear that often accompanies these events, it may be tempting to leave the scene if no major damage or injury appears likely. However, depending upon the circumstances, this act could be charged as a violation of California criminal law. If a person does find themselves fleeing an accident in a wave of overwhelming fear and panic, a criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible to assess the situation, and determine if it is possible to mitigate the potential consequences. Los Angeles Police Detectives are currently seeking information about the identity of a man involved in an accident that resulted in a death of a woman, and who could face charges for leaving the scene of the accident. Even if the offense is a misdemeanor, the consequences are likely to continue long after the sentence is served, and greatly impact a person’s life. A discussion of the two major California criminal laws that apply to leaving the scene of an accident, and how an experienced defense attorney can challenge these allegations, will follow below.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
The seriousness of the criminal charges the prosecution may make against an accused defendant is based upon the type damage the accident caused. If the damage was solely to property, the person can only be charged with a misdemeanor, but if an injury or death resulted, the offense may be filed as a felony. Misdemeanor hit and runs occur when a driver leaves the scene of an accident without first identifying him/herself to the other parties involved, and causes damage to someone else’s property. Knowledge of the property damage or that property damage was likely due to the nature of the accident must also be established, as well as a willful failure to follow these rules. Generally, California requires all drivers involved in accidents to:
- immediately stop their vehicle; and
- give the other parties involved contact information, as well as a driver’s license and vehicle registration number, if asked.
Note these duties apply regardless who caused the accident, and the type of property damaged is irrelevant. Failure to follow these requirements could result in a misdemeanor conviction, which brings fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in county jail. Additionally, having a criminal record, especially one related to driving, could limit future job opportunities, and put a person’s driver’s license at risk for suspension or revocation for having too many points on his/her record.
Felony Hit and Run
Felony charges for an alleged hit and run are likely if a driver causes the injury or death of another person, including his/her own passenger. The elements of a felony charge are essentially the same as those applicable to misdemeanor hit and run offenses. The only difference being the driver must or reasonably should have known an injury or death occurred. A felony hit and run is a wobbler offense, meaning the prosecutor can charge it as either a felony or misdemeanor, and the State could choose to charge a defendant with both if there are concerns about proving knowledge of an injury. Potential penalties include fines between $1,000 and $10,000, and up to three years in prison, though if there is a death, it could be four years.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can determine which defenses would be most effective in a given case, but showing only the accused’s car was damaged or that he/she did not know an accident happened are common arguments. If only property damage was involved, it may be possible to get a civil compromise and avoid criminal prosecution entirely.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Being in a car accident is an event most people will experience at some point, and is devastating on its own. Do not add a criminal conviction to the situation, and hire the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC to protect your rights. The Los Angeles criminal defense law firm will fight to get you the best possible results, and know how to build a strong case against criminal charges. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us for a consultation.