If you leave the scene, you can be charged — even if you later return.
Being in a car accident can be a truly terrifying experience. For many people, their first instinct is to panic, rather than to react calmly. Yet doing so can lead to even worse consequences — like being charged with a hit and run.
As a criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA can explain, California law makes it a crime to leave the scene of an accident where there was property damage without identifying yourself to the other parties involved. Under the law, you are required to stop your vehicle at the nearest safe location. Otherwise, you may be charged with misdemeanor hit and run.
If a serious injury or death occurred as a result of the accident and you left the scene, you could be charged with a felony hit and run. These laws apply regardless of fault. According to a criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA, you must stop and provide identifying information any time that you are in a California car accident that leads to property damage, serious injury, or death. A misdemeanor hit and run conviction is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines, while a felony hit and run conviction can leave to up to 3 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
What if you panicked, and then later retuned to the scene to provide identifying information? Unfortunately, while this may be the right thing to do, this is not a valid legal to a hit and run charge. In fact, it tends to show that you knew the accident occurred and chose to leave the scene. However, if you are charged with a hit and run, your criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA can use the fact that you returned to the scene to demonstrate to the court that you showed remorse and did the right thing after making a mistake out of panic in the moment.
There are other potential defenses to hit and run charges. For example, your criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA may argue that you simply did not realize that you had been in an accident. While this may seem unlikely, it is possible, especially if the accident was relatively minor and you did not realize that property damage had occurred. Alternatively, your criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA may argue that you did not leave the scene, but were looking for a safe place to pull over so that you could exchange information with the other parties involved.
If you are involved in a car accident in California, your safest bet is to stop your car when it is safe to do so and provide identifying information. However, if you are charged with a hit and run, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free initial consultation with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer San Bernardino, CA.