Driving under the influence is illegal in California. It is also illegal for any parties involved in a motor vehicle accident to leave the scene without carrying out specific responsibilities. If you have an accident while driving under the influence and leave the accident scene, you can face driving under the influence and hit-and-run charges.
Cases involving multiple violations and charges are complicated and require the attention of an experienced California DUI hit-and-run attorney from Simmrin Law Group.
What Is a Hit-and-Run?
In California, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you must remain at the scene, regardless of who caused the accident. Involved parties must identify themselves to each other and exchange contact and insurance information. If anyone has been hurt, you must provide aid and/or call 911.
Fleeing the scene is illegal. Should you break the law, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges.
- If the accident caused property damage, but no one was injured, you could face misdemeanor charges under VC §20002.
- If the accident caused bodily injury or death, you could face felony charges under VC §20001.
If the property or vehicle owner is not present when you damage their property, you must leave a note with your contact information and an explanation of the accident.
What Is a DUI?
Driving after consuming alcohol, drugs of any sort (even prescribed), or other substances that impair your cognitive and physical abilities and your ability to drive safely is illegal in California. You can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if you are:
- Under 21 and have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .01% or higher
- 21 or older and have a BAC of .08% or higher
- Driving a commercial vehicle or transporting paying passengers and have a BAC of .04% or higher
- Any age and are on probation for prior DUI offenses and have a BAC of .01% or higher
- Pulled over for a traffic violation or suspected DUI, and officers see obvious signs of impairment regardless of your BAC level
A first DUI offense is usually charged as a misdemeanor unless victims suffer injury or death. For subsequent offenses, or when victims are seriously injured or killed, you will likely face felony charges.
What Is a DUI Hit-and-Run?
If you are driving under the influence and flee the scene of an accident, you have committed a hit-and-run and will face penalties for both violations.
While some DUI hit-and-runs cause devastating injuries or death, the outcomes do not have to be that severe for you to face charges. For example, if you have a few drinks at a bar, hit a parked car in the lot, fear you may have an over-the-limit BAC, and therefore drive away without finding the car’s owner or leaving a note, you can be charged with a hit-and-run.
If you have consumed other substances, are driving impaired, hit something in the road, and keep going without bothering to see what or who you have hit or damaged, you can be charged with a hit-and-run.
What Are the Legal Penalties for a DUI Hit-and-Run?
Like standalone hit-and-run or DUI offenses, different penalties apply depending on the specifics of the DUI hit-and-run accident. Prosecutors take these charges seriously on their own and seek severe penalties when compounded. To protect your interests, secure legal counsel from an experienced DUI hit-and-run attorney.
If convicted of misdemeanor hit-and-run, you may get:
- Up to six months in jail
- Fines of up to $1,000
If convicted of felony hit-and-run, you may get:
- Two to four years in state prison if the accident caused serious injury or death
- Up to one year in jail if the accident caused minor injury
- Fines ranging from $1000 to $10,000
If convicted of misdemeanor DUI, you can face:
- Mandatory DUI classes for anywhere from three to nine months
- Up to six months in jail
- Fines of $1,500-$2000
- License suspension
- Installation of ignition interlock device
If convicted of felony DUI, you can face:
- From up to 16 months to three years in state prison
- Fines of up to $1,000, which can increase to $5000 if anyone is injured
- Mandatory DUI class for up to 30 months
- Status as a habitual traffic offender (HTO) for three years, for accidents causing injury
- Loss of driving privileges
- Life in prison for accidents causing death
What Additional Penalties Follow DUI Hit-and-Run Convictions?
The repercussions of a DUI hit-and-run conviction extend beyond the legal system. With these convictions on your record, you may lose certain educational and professional opportunities, have difficulty securing loans, and experience higher insurance costs. Further, if you lose driving privileges, you have to find alternative sources of transportation for you and anyone who depends on you to drive them places.
The losses incurred from convictions will disrupt your life and potentially cost you your freedom. An expert DUI hit-and-run lawyer is your best defense against these consequences.
What Are Possible Defenses for DUI Hit-and-Run Charges?
For the prosecution to win a conviction on hit-and-run charges, they must prove you were a participant in the accident, were aware it occurred, and intentionally failed to fulfill one of your legal duties of pulling over, exchanging information, and lending aid to the injured. After investigating the sequence of events, your lawyer may offer these or other defenses against hit-and-run charges:
- You did not realize an accident happened. You may have stopped short and cut someone off but did not see that your action caused them to veer off the road and have an accident.
- You only left the scene because you had to, not because you were avoiding responsibility. Witnesses or other involved parties may have threatened you, forcing you to leave for your own safety.
- You were not the driver. While your car may have been involved in the accident, you may not have been in the car or at the scene at all.
Your attorney will also fight against the DUI charges. Depending on when you were apprehended and the availability of other evidence, your lawyer may be able to show the prosecution cannot prove your impairment.
You Need a Skilled Lawyer to Handle Your Complex Case
DUI hit-and-run charges involve many variables and can produce multiple outcomes. Take action to protect your rights, your future opportunities and finances, and your freedom, and contact Simmrin Law Group to schedule a free case review with a California DUI hit-and-run attorney. You need a fierce negotiator and skilled legal expert to help you navigate the legal process and present a powerful defense.