What are Your Responsibilities After a Serious Car Accident in California?
As per California’s Vehicle Code Section 20001, a person involved in a vehicle accident that results in the injury or fatality of someone else is required to take certain actions. In this situation, you are legally required to stop and remain at the scene of the accident until law enforcement arrives. Under the law, you are required to provide reasonable assistance to any person who has suffered injuries in the accident so that they can later get the medical attention they need. You’re also required to provide the other parties involved in the accident your name, contact information, license information and car insurance information. If someone is seriously injured, you are required to call 911 to get an ambulance at the scene so they can get medical attention.
It’s important to note that even if you were not the one who actually caused the accident but you leave the scene, you can still be charged with the crime of hit and run. As a result, it’s imperative to stop even if you absolutely believe you were not at fault for the car accident. Additionally, if you flee the scene, you can subsequently be charged with a felony even if you were not at fault for the accident.
Due to the serious nature of this crime, if you have been arrested on charges of felony hit and run, you must immediately consult with a felony hit and run lawyer. This is not the time to represent yourself in your case. Such serious charges warrant having a skilled attorney on your side to ensure that your rights are fully protected. With the right defense put in place, you have a much better chance of having the charges reduced or even dropped.
California Felony Hit and Run Defined
Felony hit and run is a criminal offense that occurs when a driver involved in a road accident that results in injuries or death to another person or persons fails to stop and remain at the scene after the accident.
According to California Vehicle Code 20004 and 20003, if law enforcement doesn’t arrive at the scene of an accident resulting in the death of another person, you are legally required to immediately report the accident to the nearest police station or California Highway Patrol.
There are certain elements of the crime of felony hit and run. The prosecution must prove that all of these elements are in place during the case. Those elements include the following:
• You were driving a vehicle and got into a road accident
• The road accident that occurred led to the injury or death of another person
• You had full knowledge that you were involved in the accident that led to the injury or death of another person
• You deliberately failed to perform the duties required of you after the accident
What are the Penalties for Felony Hit and Run in California?
Hit and run is a wobbler criminal offense in California. That means it can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. However, if the accident leaves a person seriously injured, permanently injured or dead, a person who is charged with a hit and run can see the charges elevated up to a felony. If you are arrested and charged with felony hit and run, it’s important to immediately retain an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your interests.
There are certain penalties you can face if you are convicted of felony hit and run in California. They include the following if the victim suffers non-serious injuries:
• Up to one year in jail with at least 90 days served
• A fine ranging from a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum of $10,000
• Paying restitution to the victim
• Two points on your driving record per the Department of Motor Vehicles
Penalties for felony hit and run involving serious or permanent injuries or death include the following:
• Two, three or four years of incarceration in California state prison
• A fine that ranges from a minimum of $1,000 to a maximum of $10,000
• Paying restitution to the victim or their immediate surviving family members
• Two points on your driving record as per the Department of Motor Vehicles
It should be noted that a conviction can potentially be reduced to a misdemeanor after you have successfully completed probation. Only those who have not served time in state prison are eligible.
Possible Defenses for Felony Hit and Run
There are various defenses that can be used in a case involving felony hit and run. Which one your lawyer uses depends on the circumstances of your case. The defenses include the following:
• Lack of knowledge: The defense attorney can argue that you lacked knowledge of your involvement in the accident or didn’t know there were injuries or deaths involved. If this defense is successful, you can avoid a felony conviction.
• You didn’t willfully leave the scene: The defense can argue that you did not willfully leave the scene of the accident and had a legitimate reason to do so, such as an emergency.
• You were the only one injured: If your defense lawyer can prove that you were the only person who suffered injuries in the accident, you cannot be convicted of felony hit and run.
If you’ve been arrested on felony hit and run charges, you need to take immediate action. Consulting with a criminal defense lawyer who’s experienced in the area of hit and run accidents is essential. It’s the best chance you have for a lesser charge or at even having the charges dismissed.