In California, any individual who fails to comply with California Vehicle Code § 20002 VC after an accident occurs may be charged with a criminal offense. California drivers are required to locate and notify the owner of any property damaged in an accident and provide valid information including driver’s license and vehicle registration. In most instances, this offense is charged as a misdemeanor, but it may be charged as a felony.
Vehicle Code § 20002 VC is the California law that applies to hit-and-run accidents where only property damage results from the accident. It is a misdemeanor offense to flee the scene of an accident without stopping and providing valid personal information when any property is damaged because of an accident. When charged as a misdemeanor, a hit-and-run is punishable by up to 6 months in jail, fines of up to $1000.00, restitution to the owners of any damaged property, as well as two points on a motorist’s driving record.
There are circumstances where a hit-and-run may be charged as a felony. The distinction between misdemeanor and felony hit-and-run is based on whether an individual suffers any personal injury resulting from the accident. If the accident causes property damage and nothing more, then only misdemeanor charges will be filed.
However, if an accident victim suffers death or permanent, serious injury, then felony hit-and-run under California Vehicle Code § 20001 VC may be charged. As defined in the statute, “permanent, serious injury” means the loss or permanent impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ. Of course, a driver is required to stop when an accident occurs involving any type of injury or property damage.
A violation of Vehicle Code § 20001 may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, which makes it a wobbler offense. If an offense under VC § 20001 is charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year. If an offense under VC § 20001 is charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by up to three years in state prison. Note that if an intoxicated driver flees the scene in violation of VC § 20002 where the death of an individual has resulted, the driver may be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in state prison.
In sum, if the accident involves only property damage, it is a violation of VC § 20002 and a misdemeanor offense to leave the scene of the accident. If some injury occurs, then this also is a violation of VC § 20002 and will typically be charged as a misdemeanor. If death or serious, permanent injury occurs, it is a violation of VC § 20002 and will be charged as a felony.
The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices may help any Californian obtain the best possible result in his or her criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. Certification as a Specialist in Criminal Law is the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices have decades of experience defending individuals charged with drug possession, domestic violence, DUI, and violent felonies. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.