California has some tough hit and run laws. It is a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident involving property damage without exchanging basic information, and a felony if that accident involves a bodily injury. There are also civil consequences that potentially come into play. Below are the basics of what you should know.
Penal Code 20001
As stated in penal code sec. 20001, there are a few different circumstances where the driver of a vehicle must stop immediately when an automobile accident has occurred. This is to satisfy the requirements listed in traffic code sections 20003 and 20004.
The different circumstances are as follows:
- When another driver or passenger has suffered injury because of the vehicle accident
- When injuries of an accident cause the loss of life of another driver or passenger
If a driver fails to comply with these laws, it can result in a prison sentence no longer than one year. They may also be held responsible for a fine that is no less than $1,000 and no higher than $10,000. In some situations the driver may receive a prison sentence and a fine.
A serious or permanent injury refers to injuries that cause impairment that is permanent or the loss of function of an organ or member. In the event that serious or permanent injury or the death of a person occurs and these laws are violated, it can result in the following punishments:
- A sentence to the state prison for as long as two, three, or four years
- A sentence to the county jail that can be anywhere from 90 days to one year
- A fine that can be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000
- A sentence to prison and a fine
The court does however have the power to lower or completely eliminate minimum prison terms. There are a few factors that are considered when minimum fines are imposed. This is the financial capabilities of the defendant, specific reasons that are stated in the record, and the best interests of justice. Upon considering these factors minimum fine amounts may be reduced.
When violations have been made to the following penal codes and a driver leaves the scene of an accident, it is punishable by an additional prison term of five years on top of the punishment already prescribed.
- Penal Code Section 191.5
- Paragraph 1 or 3 of subdivision C of Penal Code Section 192
- Subdivision A or C of Penal Code Section 192.5
Penal Code 20002
This code states that drivers should immediately stop their vehicle when they’ve been involved in an accident that causes damage to another person’s property or automobile.
One of the following should also be done.
- The person that owns the property should be located and supplied with the owner and driver’s name and address of the automobile involved in the accident. If requested, the vehicle’s registration and driver’s license of the responsible driver should also be presented. The driver responsible for the accident may also request the driver’s license or identification be presented from the involved vehicle’s owner and other parties involved.
- A written notice should be left in a noticeable spot on the property or vehicle that was damaged. This should contain the responsible driver’s name and address and statement explaining the circumstances surrounding the accident. The police department located in the city where the accident happened should also be contacted right away. The Department of the California Highway Patrol should be contacted when accidents occur in unincorporated territories.
Part B of Penal Code 20002 states that owners of runaway parked vehicles causing an accident resulting in damage are also liable for the above penalties when stated requirements aren’t met. Drivers that do not comply with these requirements will be charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted, they may also be punished with jail time of no more than 6 months, or fines in the amount of $1,000 or less, or fines and jail time. If you were injured and need a hit and run attorney, contact Ehline Law Firm PC.