hit and run LAWYER In San Diego
When you have been arrested for fleeing the scene of a car crash, I can help you. I am hit and run defense attorney Peter M. Liss. I graduated from the top-ranked University of California, Berkeley Law School, and I have successfully defended many people just like you who have been charged with criminal traffic offenses, including hit-and-run accidents.
You can schedule a free consultation at my Vista criminal defense office by calling (760) 643-4050 or my more central San Diego law office by calling (858) 486-3024. As a highly rated hit and run lawyer, I guarantee my clients receive top-quality representation at affordable rates.
About Hit and Run Accidents in San Diego
One thing many people fail to understand about hit-and-run car accidents is that under the law, detailed under California Vehicle Code sections 20001 and 20002 (VC), you do not need to have caused the crash to be charged. Even if someone else hits your car, you can face criminal charges if you leave the scene of the accident without providing the other driver with your information.
Hit and Run Laws Don’t Just Cover People or Vehicles
While some people think you can only be charged with hit and run if you leave after hitting a car or a person, it’s important to note that this law also covers non-vehicle property such as a mailbox or someone’s pet. Under 20002 (VC), even if the accident only involved property damage, any time you are involved in an accident and leave without giving your name, contact information, insurance information, and driver’s license number.
You Can Leave to Seek Medical Attention
20001 and 20002 (VC) allow you to legally leave the location of an accident to seek emergency medical assistance for you, your passenger, or someone else injured in the accident. In these cases, you must tell hospital officials or the police about the incident so they can identify anyone else involved and give them your contact and insurance information.
If you are charged with a hit and run even though you went to get emergency care and provided the police or hospital staff with information about the accident, your defense lawyer can use this information to have the charges dropped.
What is the Penalty for a Hit and Run in California?
The charges filed in a hit and run accident will vary based on the specific circumstances of the incident, including whether someone was injured or only property damage occurred, if anyone suffered great bodily injury, and if the defendant has any prior convictions on their record. If a person injured in a hit and run accident has died, the defendant can even face vehicular manslaughter or homicide charges. The prosecution may file animal abuse charges when an animal dies after a hit and run crash.
Accidents that Result in Injuries
If a person was injured even slightly, the driver who left the scene of the accident may be charged under 20001 (VC), which may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony at the prosecutor’s discretion. In California, penalties for hit and run cases involving injury or death include jail or prison time, a driver’s license suspension, and substantial fines, even if you were not responsible for the accident. The state may also be able to permanently seize your vehicle.
If someone was injured as a result of a hit and run accident and the charge is filed as a misdemenaor, under 20001 (VC), the driver may face up to one year in jail and $10,000 in fines.
Felony hit and run charges may be filed if you fled from the scene of an accident after someone was even sligthtly injured. The maximum penalty for a felony hit and run in California is up to 4 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalties for Property Damage: 20002 (VC)
Suppose you leave the scene of an accident that only results in property damage. In that case, you will face misdemeanor hit and run charges under California Vehicle Code 20002 (VC), where the maximum penalty will be $1,000 and 6 months of jail time. Regardless of the type of damage, the law allows the state to seize your vehicle in some cases.
What are Possible Defenses to Hit and Run?
In many hit and run cases, an attorney may be able to have the charges reduced or secure an alternative sentence, such as community service to help you avoid incarceration. When no injury occurs, a hit and run charge can even be dropped if the other party agrees, which they often do when you agree to a civil settlement to cover the damages. Anyone charged with hit and run in San Diego must contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to find out how you can best work to beat the charges given the specific circumstances of your case.
You Were Unaware an Accident Took Place
If you legitimately didn’t notice that you were in an accident and you still owe the other party financial compensation for the damage to their vehicle, but you are not guilty of leaving the scene. While you may still be headed to court in a civil trial, you shouldn’t face any criminal consequences for violating 20002 (VC).
This defense does not work if you should have been aware that an accident occurred but you didn’t notice because you were driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is only excusable to claim you didn’t notice the accident if a reasonable person in the same circumstances may have reached the same conclusion.
No Damage Occurred
20002 (VC) is only a crime if you damage someone else’s property. If no damages occurred, or if your vehicle was the only thing to suffer damages, the charges should be dropped, even if you left the scene without sharing your information.
No One Was Injured
While not a full defense to the charges, if no one was injured but property damage occurred, you should only face charges related to 20002 (VC). If you were accused of 20001 (VC), this defense could result in the charges being reduced.
It Was Not Safe to Stop
As stated above, you can seek emergency care after you were involved in a car accident. Along the same lines, if the location of the accident made it unsafe for you to pull over and exchange information, you have the right to drive to a safe place to do so. Similarly, if the other driver is so angry they look like they want to fight you, it is legal to protect yourself from harm by driving away.
In all of these cases though, you must contact the police as soon as possible to notify them of the accident so they can provide the other driver with your information so they can process a claim with their insurance company. If you have reason to believe the driver presents a serious threat to you even after they have calmed down after the immediate aftermath of the accident, your criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you secure a restraining order to protect yourself.
You Were Not the Driver
If you were not driving the vehicle involved in the hit and run, you cannot be guilty of this crime. People are frequently accused of these charges because they or their vehicle match the description of the person or car involved in the incident. A good alibi or proof that you were not involved in the accident should help you avoid a conviction.