When you are involved in a hit and run accident, either as a driver or as a victim, it can be very stressful. Did you know that CA has more hit and run accidents than any other state? Immediately after the accident, many times, the driver does not think it through and just flees the scene, hoping to elude arrest, particularly those who were intoxicated or uninsured. The victim, left with damage to their vehicle or property, or worse, injuries or death to their loved ones can only hope someone witnessed the accident and got the plate number.
The driver will need legal advice, whether they are willing to turn themselves in or not. Frequently, the longer you avoid dealing with the incident, the worse it will look for you, the driver.
Hit and Run, Misdemeanor or Felony
Hit and run is a criminal offense. According to CA Vehicle Code (CVC) 20001, Accidents and Accident Reports, “The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident…” It is a felony offense when there is an injury, no matter how severe the injury. The degree of injury or death only comes in to play during the plea bargain or sentencing. The CVC prescribes minimum and maximum jail sentences and fines. The minimum fine if convicted of a felony hit and run is $1000, up to $10,000 and the minimum jail sentence is 90 days in county jail and up to four years in prison. What’s more, the court could levy both a fine and imprisonment.
In the interest of justice or in considering the driver’s income, the court has leeway in levying both minimum and maximum fines and the length of prison or county jail time. With the maximum fines and jail time generally given to more serious injuries and death. A person that turns themselves in might receive a lighter sentence than someone caught later in another traffic stop or accident. Regardless of fault, everyone involved is required to stop and render aid if necessary.
CVC 20002, Accidents and Accident Reports, states that a vehicle which is involved in a collision or incident where there is damage to property only, including the other vehicle, must stop as soon as possible considering traffic and safety. What many drivers do not realize is that no matter how slight the damage to another person’s property, you must report it or attempt to find the owner of the property.
Say you’re on an isolated back road with little traffic and you knock over someone’s mailbox. You get out and return the mailbox to its upright position, and because you there is no apparent damage, you drive off. This could be a misdemeanor crime or hit and run. However, if you had left a message in the mailbox with your contact information and/or reported it to the local law enforcement officers (LEO), you met the intent of the CVC.
In the same scenario, if you didn’t leave a notice or report it to LEO, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor crime. A crime punishable by a fine not to exceed $1000, without the state and county surcharges, fees, and penalties, which could bring the total up over $3000, imprisonment for up to 6 months, or both.
Whether you were involved in a misdemeanor or felony hit and run, you need the advice and counsel of a traffic defense attorney immediately.
The reason many drivers don’t stop when involved in a hit and run accident is that they did not have insurance, or they were intoxicated. To avoid being victimized by uninsured or underinsured motorists (UM/UIM) you can get a low-cost rider for your auto insurance. In CA, the mandatory minimum is 15/30/5, which means you must carry insurance that covers up to $15,000 medical or death coverage for one person, $30,000 medical or death total for each accident, and $5,000 property damage coverage. How much is your car worth? Chances are a lot more than $5,000, not to mention the medical coverage. Just something to think about to reduce the stress for victims.
Whatever your situation, you should talk to a traffic defense lawyer.
Talk to Bigger & Harman, the Bakersfield Traffic Defense Team
If you are convicted of a hit and run violation, there’s a lot more at stake than your license, fines, and jail time. Ruthless personal injury lawyers will go after your car, house, and income. It is not rare for those convicted to have their wages attached to cover the amount above what their insurance does not cover if they have insurance. Talk to Bigger & Harman, APC today to get a legal opinion about your case, (661) 349-9300, or send them an email: email@example.com.
You can get more information and even leave a message for the team on their Facebook page.
Bigger & Harman have their main office in Bakersfield, at 1701 Westwind Dr. Suite 203. Be sure to call first to ensure one of them is in the office as they spend a lot of their time in traffic court. This is the traffic defense team many truckers in Kern County and Central Valley trust. Read your friends and neighbors’ comments on Avvo or Yelp. Avvo is a prominent legal website, as is Nolo.com.
Se habla Español 661.349.9755.