Hit and Run
A hit and run in California is a violation of the Vehicle Code. This is a traffic matter but is a misdemeanor. The consequences can include a driver’s license suspension, 2 points for 7 years, 6 months in jail, a court fine with fees of $4200.00, probation, and restitution.
The best way to explain a hit and run might be to address the most common statement and questions our clients raise.
“… but I didn’t hit anything!”
We recently represented a client charged with a misdemeanor CVC 20002, hit and run with property damage, at Bellflower Courthouse in Los Angeles County who was merging on the freeway. Another driver claims to have had to aggressively changed lanes to avoid an accident with our client, and in so doing, hit another car, which hit another car, which hit yet another car. In all of this, our client’s car was never hit, sustained no damage, and did not even know there was an accident. However, a car followed him and tried shouting through an opened window at freeway speeds to tell our client to pull over, but he did not. To add to it, our client had a laundry list of prior traffic violations.
It did not matter that there was no damage to our client’s car, nor that his car did not touch the other vehicles. It only mattered to the prosecution that there was an accident that involved our client and our client did not stop, and, considering that his driving history was consistent with behavior that causes accidents.
Criminal Defense Attorney David Dastrup negotiated in judge’s chambers for nothing less than a dismissal. However, this was not based upon our car not having any damage except that it related to our client not knowing that there was an accident. Thus, we had the judge agree to ultimately dismiss this case. This saved our client from a conviction, meaning no jail, no license suspension, and no DMV points.
“I didn’t know there was an accident.”
This is a valid legal defense because knowledge that there was an accident is essential element to the crime of hit and run. However, this is different than stopping but the other person says they are fine so then you leave. The other person cannot give you permission to leave. You could confirm that there was not an accident, but you should probably gather some proof of this, like photos, video, as in any type of accident.
It is not uncommon for a driver in an oversized truck to not feel a small hit, and this might be a compelling argument. We had a case at a Justice Center in Orange County, where the driver of a large truck did not know he hit a hanging over light pole. A local store owner reported observing the damage to the pole. Fortunately, we were able to use these facts to defend our client successful to avoid a criminal conviction.
“I went back and talked to the driver and the police.”
Once you leave, even if you comeback, the crime has allegedly occurred, at least sufficiently for probably cause to cite or arrest you, and for the prosecutor to file charges.
“I pulled over as soon as I could.”
We had a client in Long Beach Court that side swiped a car when he was avoiding a truck pulling into his lane. Police were at the intersection and pulled him over immediately claiming he was leaving the scene. Out client claimed that he would have pulled over in the same spot the cops pulled him over—less than a block away. Regardless, the charges were brought against him. Fortunately, we got this case dismissed (including a dismissal of the suspended license charge against our client).
If you pulled over as soon as you could, it does not mean that the charges will not be brought against you, but it does give you a strong defense.
“I can’t afford to lose my license” or “I have too many points.”
In this situation, you simply need a defense attorney to negotiate for you, to get the best results. We have had many successes, in Compton Courthouse, in West Justice Center, Metropolitan Court on Hills Street in Los Angeles City, Airport Court also known as LAX, in getting cases dismissed and or reduced even without a “legal defense.” We know traffic, that is what we do!
“My insurance already paid the other guy.”
This may help your case resolve more favorably, but it does not make the case go away without more legal work and or negotiations. In fact, a criminal conviction would still result in you being required to pay for damages. However, in our experience, paying for damages upfront has always helped to get a better deal, even full dismissals without any other consequences. This is called a civil compromise.
“The police investigator told me not to worry about it.”
What the police tell you may mean a lot and it may mean nothing. Yes, there are nice police officers that tell you exactly the truth and even helpful information. However, you cannot tell between this type of experience and the type of experience where a police officer is trying to get evidence against you and may be saying whatever she thinks will illicit that evidence from you, regardless of what it being said to you is completely false. The U.S. Supreme Court says it is okay for a police officer to lie to someone to get a confession, within certain bounds.
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