When Is a Hit and Run a Crime?
At what point does a car accident become a hit and run? In California, there is a requirement that you attempt to make contact with the owner of any property damaged in a car accident. Leaving the scene without trying to make contact is considered a hit and run. The punishments you may face can be severe, so be sure you know what to do if you’re ever unfortunate enough to be in a traffic accident.
Avoid Committing a Hit and Run
If you drive a car involved in an accident that causes damage, whether to property or people, you must take specific steps to avoid hit and run charges. After a collision, you should always:
- Attempt to locate the owners of any other vehicles or property involved
- Be prepared to share your license and registration with the owner(s) of any damaged property
- If you are driving someone else’s car, inform others of their name and address, including corporate names if you’re driving a business vehicle
- Leave a note that includes your name, address, and contact information for the property owner if you cannot locate them.
Leaving the scene of the accident without taking these actions may lead to hit and run charges. Even leaving momentarily and planning to return is enough to end up facing allegations.
Criminal Hit and Run Requires Damage
To be charged with a crime for a hit and run, you must be involved in a car accident that results in damage or injury. The damage does not need to be to another vehicle but can also be to traffic signs, fencing, benches, or other fixtures and property. No matter how minor the harm, leaving the scene without attempting to find the property owner can result in a hit and run crime. When in doubt, it is always best to at least leave a note.
Injuring Someone Makes Hit and Run a Felony
A California prosecutor can charge hit and run as a misdemeanor or a felony. Felony charges are only available if someone was injured in the car accident. However, there is no requirement that the injury sustained be severe, just that an injury occurred.
The maximum sentence for felony hit and run is:
- Up to four years in state prison
- A fine of $10,000
- Covering the costs of repairing any injury or property damage you caused
If someone dies due to a hit and run accident, you may face additional charges for vehicular manslaughter. A conviction on these more serious charges could result in harsher penalties.
Leaving an accident scene that only caused property damage but no human injury will be charged as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor hit and run carries a maximum penalty of:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine between $1,000 and $10,000
- Paying to repair any property damage you caused
- Two points added to your driver’s record
The severity of your punishment will be determined by the facts of your case and your criminal history. California judges generally have the leeway to order summary probation instead of jail time for hit and run charges.
Are you facing criminal charges for a hit and run accident in Anaheim, California? The Chambers Law Firm can fight for your freedom. Reach out to us at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org to request a free consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.