No one intends to get into a car accident, and it is natural for the person responsible to panic. This panic can lead drivers to contemplate, and sometimes act on, the urge to leave the scene. However, leaving the scene of an accident before communicating with the other parties involved, especially if it appears there are injuries, can bring significant criminal charges. Anyone facing this situation needs to hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect their rights and hopefully mitigate the final outcome. While leaving the scene of an accident may appear to be nothing more than a minor traffic infraction, California criminal law takes a strong stance on this issue, and someone convicted of this crime can face significant jail or prison time. California law imposes a duty on all drivers to stop in the event of an accident. Drivers are obligated to provide insurance and contact information, and summon help if someone is hurt. A recent example of the serious consequences leaving the scene of an accident can bring involves a man accused of killing a mother and her unborn child in the San Diego area on Mother’s Day. The man faces eight felony charges, including two for murder, and could be sentenced to 40 years to life in prison if convicted after he rear-ended the woman and fled the scene. However, being charged with leaving the scene of an accident does not automatically mean a person will be convicted. A number of defenses are available to combat these charges, which will be discussed below.
Potential Charges and Sentences
Hit and run charges can be filed as misdemeanors or felonies. The factor that determines which level of charges a prosecutor will pursue is whether the accident involved property damage or injuries. Misdemeanor charges typically apply if there is minor property damage and no injuries. Those convicted of this offense face up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines. Note that leaving an accident, even if another driver was at fault or the collision did not involve another car, can still subject someone to criminal charges.
Felony hit and run charges are filed when injuries are involved, and can bring potential sentences of up $10,000 in fines and four years in State prison. Additional charges may be added if a serious injury or death occurred and/or alcohol was a factor. The specific circumstances of each case will decide the amount of jail/prison time.
The most critical issue the prosecutor must prove to convict someone of a hit and run is that the person knew or reasonably should have known an accident and/or injury occurred. Consequently, the first defense to a hit and run charge is the defendant did not know that property damage or an injury resulted. The defendant may also be able to argue that only his/her vehicle was involved in the accident, and as a result could not have caused the damage or injury alleged. Additionally, the defendant can argue that he/she was not involved in the accident, and therefore, is not responsible for any damage or injury. This defense may be particularly applicable if the person accused of hit and run was the owner of the vehicle, but was not the driving it at the time of the incident.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Criminal charges of any sort should be taken seriously, and the attorneys at Los Angeles’ Manshoory Law Group, APC will carefully evaluate your case, and help you present the most effective defense to the charges. Criminal charges can change your life forever, and you need an advocate on your side, like Manshoory Law Group, to fight for your rights. Attorneys are available 24/7. Contact us for a free consultation.