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A Hit and Run can be a serious misdemeanor in California. The California Vehicle Code section is 20002(a) if there is only property damages, which is what this article is focused on. While this may be a traffic ticket or handled by a police traffic investigator, it is a misdemeanor, meaning a criminal charge. The consequences can include a combination of a driver’s license suspension, vehicle impounded, 2 DMV points for 7 years, 6 months in Los Angeles County Jail or Orange County Jail, Superior Court of California fines and fees exceeding $4,200.00, 3 years of summary probation, and restitution.
The best way to explain a hit and run might be to address the most common statements and questions raised by criminal defendants.
“… but I didn’t hit anything!”
We recently represented a client charged with a misdemeanor CVC 20002a, 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 over-sized truck, a commercial driver in a tractor trailer, for example, to not feel a small hit, and this might be a compelling argument. We had a case at the West Justice Center in Orange County, where the driver of a large truck did not know he hit an over-hanging 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 already occurred, at least sufficiently for probably cause to cite or arrest you, and for the prosecutor to file charges. This does not mean you will be convicted, and it does help so that your attorney can get your case dismissed or resolved favorably.
“I pulled over as soon as I could.”
We had a client in Long Beach Court, Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, 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—in a parking lot to get out off the street, only a 1/2 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). In this situation, pulling over as soon as you thought was safe, it does not mean that the criminal case will not be filed 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 Courthouse also known as LAX Court. Our goal with a hit and run is to get the case dismissed. We are often able to achieve a dismissal even without a “legal defense.” We know how to defend you on a traffic misdemeanors to get the best result because that is what we do everyday in court for our clients.
“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. In fact, a criminal conviction would still result in you being required to pay for damages, so your insurance paying for damages is part of resolving the case. 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 he or she thinks will illicit that evidence from you. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for a police officer to lie to someone to get a confession, within certain bounds.
"But I am not a criminal."
Of course, that is why you need an attorney. It is not uncommon for someone who has never committed a crime to be charged with a hit-and-run. A simple fender-bender that you did not even realize occurred, or you thought it was already taken care of, can result in being investigated for a hit and run and eventually being charged in court with a misdemeanor. Call us at 310-817-5899.
18411 Crenshaw Blvd Suite 400 Torrance CA 90504 US +1.3108175899 ContactAttorney@DastrupLaw.com
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