Hit And Run Defense | LA Criminal Attorneys
The criminal offense of “Hit & Run” in California can be prosecuted under 2 different sections of the California Vehicle Code. In Los Angeles, Hit & Run charges under VC 20002(a) involve collisions resulting in just property damage and no injuries to persons other than the driver. They are also prosecuted as misdemeanor criminal offenses. Whereas Hit & Run charges under VC 20001(a) involve traffic collisions resulting in injury or death to another. Hit & Run with injury is a much more serious traffic crime and is considered a “wobbler” offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. Whether you get charged with a felony or misdemeanor Hit & Run with injury depends on aggravating factors such as the seriousness of the injuries you caused to the other party.
Misdemeanor Hit & Run – VC 20002(a)
VC 20002(a), a misdemeanor traffic crime, defines Hit & Run as any driver’s attempt to leave the scene of a non-injury collision without providing the owner or person in charge of the property or vehicle with proof of financial responsibility or insurance, driver’s license, registration, and current contact information. Even if you are not at-fault for the collision, you can still be prosecuted for failing to provide your insurance information. There are several VC 20002(a) Hit & Run defenses and which defense depends on the specific facts of your case. If you find yourself charged with a Hit & Run involving property damage in Los Angeles, you face the following possible penalties:
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- Fine up to $1,000
- Informal or unsupervised probation
- 2 points on your DMV driving record
- Misdemeanor criminal record
Felony Hit & Run With Injury – VC 20001(a)
A Hit & Run under VC 20001(a) is the most serious between the two Hit & Run vehicle code statutes. Hit & Run with injury in Los Angeles is considered a “wobbler” offense. Therefore, you can either be charged with a felony or misdemeanor and the consequences for conviction are much more serious than property damage only Hit & Runs. If you are charged with a felony Hit & Run in Los Angeles, you face the following potential penalties:
- Up to 1 year in County Jail (misdemeanor) or up to 3 years in California State Prison (felony)
- Up to 4 years in California State Prison (felony with great bodily injury (GBI) sentencing enhancement)
- Up to $1,000 fine (misdemeanor) or up to $10,000 fine (felony)
- Informal probation (misdemeanor) or Formal supervised probation (felony)
- 2 points on your DMV driving record
- Misdemeanor or felony criminal record
What Happens After A Hit & Run Is Reported?
In order to better understand what you should do next, it is important for you first to be familiar with the Los Angeles criminal investigative process that begins after a Hit & Run offense is reported. Obviously, if witnesses or victims were unable to capture your license plate number and you were not followed, it is highly unlikely you would be located. Essentially, you “got away with it.” Alternatively, if witnesses or victim(s) captured your plate number or followed you to your destination, that would provide police with enough information to locate you. If you are not the registered owner of the vehicle, the registered owner would be contacted and pressured to give up your identity. Regardless of how the police detective obtains your information, the next step in the Hit & Run investigation would involve you receiving contact by the detective initially in one of three ways:
- Phone call
- Directly in-person
Do I Have To Answer Questions From A Detective?
If you are contacted by a detective in connection with any crime, not just a Hit & Run, you are not required nor obligated to answer any questions. This also goes for oral or written inquiries from insurance companies as well. If you receive a letter from a detective, again, you are not obligated to reply. Although you may feel conflicted about your decision to remain silent out of fear of looking “guiltier” or receiving a harsher penalty, keep in mind that your right against self-incrimination is Constitutionally protected and therefore, your decision to exercise that right does not create additional material evidence for the prosecutor to use against you.
Do I Have To Answer Questions From An Insurance Adjuster?
You are not required to speak with your insurance nor the other party’s insurance following a Hit & Run collision. Furthermore, you should avoid making any statements regarding the facts of your case to anyone, your insurance included. Your oral (often recorded) and written statements, even if they are simply for insurance claims purposes, can be used against you as evidence in criminal court. The last thing you want to happen is a criminal charge to be filed against you because you incriminated yourself to get a dent on your bumper fixed. Even worse, if you give a false statement to your insurance in an effort to process your claim and avoid incriminating yourself, you could be charged with felony insurance fraud, felony perjury, or both. If you find yourself facing this dilemma, you should immediately consult with an experienced Los Angeles hit and run defense attorney with experience in dealing with both the insurance companies and each of the criminal courts throughout the LA Superior Court system.
What You Should Do After A Hit And Run In LA
In our 3 decades of criminal defense practice in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, we have encountered nearly every possible scenario involving Hit & Run charges. The most crucial aspect of your case is whether you were or could be identified as the driver. This important detail can make or break the prosecution’s case against you. Therefore, you should not under any circumstances speak to police if you are contacted. The majority of our Hit & Run clients are proactive and retain our services prior to receiving police contact or responding to oral or written inquiries from insurance companies. Therefore, we are able to respond on our clients’ behalf to inquiries from both police and insurance companies with the goal of proactively seeking prefile resolutions to prevent criminal charges from being filed. One such resolution is a dismissal by way of Civil Compromise under California Penal Code section 1377-1379.
Our Defense Attorneys’ Experience & Accolades
LA criminal defense lawyers, Eugene Hanrahan and Stephen Sitkoff are former special prosecutors with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office who have specialized in Hit and Run defense in Los Angeles since 1987. Mr. Hanrahan is a top rated former federal and county prosecutor with over 2 decades criminal law experience. Mr. Sitkoff is among the less than 5% of attorneys who are recognized by Super Lawyers while maintaining a Preeminent attorney rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
Learn How To Avoid A Hit & Run Conviction And Jail
With over 70 plus years of combined criminal and DUI defense experience, there are very few criminal defense firms in Southern California that can match the experience and expertise we bring to every case we are entrusted to defend. We are results driven and strive to achieve our clients’ goals. If you have been arrested or targeted for investigation in connection with a misdemeanor or felony Hit & Run, please call our Los Angeles office immediately at (888) 579-4844 or (310) 312-8055 for a free confidential consultation. For 3 decades, we have achieved positive results for our clients facing Hit and Run investigations, charges, warrants, and probation violations.