You could face serious charges if you are accused of leaving the scene of an accident after a collision. Depending on the facts of the accident, you could face a year or more in prison, heavy fines, and probation after being released.
At the Simmrin Law Group, a hit-and-run lawyer in Orange County will fight for clients accused of this offense. We have decades of experience defending clients throughout California, and we can help those in the Orange County area.
What is a Hit-and-Run?
A hit-and-run accident involves a motor vehicle accident where one of the people involved in the accident does not stay at the scene. A hit-and-run accident will likely involve criminal charges when one of the drivers fails to stop at the scene, provide identification, or offer assistance to the other driver if they have been injured.
A hit-and-run can involve an accident between two vehicles, between a vehicle and a pedestrian, between a vehicle and a bicycle, or between a moving vehicle and a parked vehicle or other stationary property.
If the collision involves a parked vehicle, locating and notifying the owner may be difficult. However, most states have laws that will require the driver to leave a note with their contact information and report the incident to law enforcement. If the driver fails to do this, they may be charged with a hit-and-run.
For a free legal consultation with a hit-and-run accident lawyer serving Orange County, call (310) 896-2723
Is a Hit-and-Run a Felony or Misdemeanor Offense?
California Vehicle Code 20001 defines the crime of felony hit-and-run. Hit-and-run offenses can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony under California Vehicle Code. A hit-and-run that causes property damage is typically charged as a misdemeanor (Code 20002), whereas a hit-and-run that causes injury or death to a person is charged as a felony.
A California prosecutor must be able to prove every element of the crime in order to convict someone of felony hit-and-run under California Vehicle Code 20001, which includes:
- The person charged was actively driving the car and was involved in the accident,
- Another person was injured or killed as a result of the accident,
- The wrongdoer was aware that someone was injured or killed at the time of the accident, and
- The driver willfully failed to meet the legal requirements outlined under the law.
Note that the law says “involved” this means that a person can be charged with a felony hit-and-run if they were involved in the accident in any manner, whether or not they were the ones that caused the actual injury or accident.
If no one was killed or injured in the accident, then the hit-and-run charge will more than likely be a misdemeanor charge. Obviously, there are circumstances that can be the charges more severe, and will always depend on the situation.
Orange County Hit-and-Run Accident Lawyer Near Me (310) 896-2723
Possible Defenses for a Hit-and-Run
If facing charges for a hit-and-run, whether those are felony or misdemeanor charges, there are possible defenses available. It is important that everyone know their rights and knows what defenses they can deploy if they have been charged. Hiring legal representation is a sure way to have the best defense in a hit-and-run case.
The possible defenses an Orange County hit-and-run lawyer will use include, but are not limited to:
- Involuntary intoxication
- Leaving the scene to respond to an emergency
- Lack of knowledge
Using the defense of involuntary intoxication, also called diminished capacity, requires evidence that the driver was drugged or became intoxicated through another involuntary manner, which then caused the accident. This is a very difficult defense to use and requires solid evidence to go against the prosecution case.
Another possible defense is that someone left the scene because of an emergency. This is a more likely defense, and a prime example is someone going to the hospital for an injury or that they were transporting someone that had an injury that needed immediate medical attention.
Finally, it is possible to show that there the driver was unaware that they inflicted injury or damage to property or person. Sometimes, people do not realize they hit something or someone when driving. This is common when it is dark or inclement weather.
Statute of Limitations for a Hit-and-Run
A statute of limitations in California criminal law refers to the maximum time period for which a prosecutor can file charges for an offense.
The criminal statute of limitations for filing hit-and-run charges in California has been extended to six years under Assembly Bill 184. In 2014, AB 184 was signed into law, and prior to this signing, the statute of limitation for a hit-and-run offense was three years in California.
This means that a prosecutor must file a hit-and-run charge within six years of a motorist committing the offense. If he or she fails to do so, no charges will be filed. The statute of limitations starts running at the time of the accident and not the time that the prosecutor became aware of the accident. Speak to an Orange County hit-and-run attorney about the time limits involved with your case.
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In the most recent reporting year, California had the highest number of fatal hit-and-runs, according to the statistics reported by Lending Tree. With 2,948 crashes resulting in 3,056 deaths, California accounted for 17% of all crashes in the United States. Texas and Florida also had over 1,000 fatal hit-and-runs (1,965 and 1,739, respectively), with each state’s fatality count increasing over the decade.
On average, according to recent data, there are over 700,000 hit-and-run accidents reported each year in the United States. This means that there is a hit-and-run accident that occurs every 43 seconds somewhere in the U.S.
Hiring an Orange County Hit-and-Run Lawyer
If you have been charged with a hit-and-run after leaving the scene of an accident, you should consult with a skilled hit-and-run attorney in Orange County. Your attorney will carefully examine the facts of your hit-and-run case and advise you on the best defense to use to either lessen the charges or have the charges dropped.
Our Orange County Hit-and-Run lawyers at the Simmrin Law Group understand the seriousness of being charged with a hit-and-run and can offer a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case. Contact our lawyers today by giving us a call or filling out our online form.