Orange County Hit and Run Defense Lawyer
Orange County Hit and Run Defense Lawyer
Getting into a car accident can be a scary and stressful experience. Even more so if you leave the scene without exchanging information. Being charged with hit and run in California can lead to serious criminal penalties, even for an accident that only caused property damage.
If you have been accused of a hit and run in Orange County, don’t go through it alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges and build the strongest possible defense for your case.
This article will provide an overview of hit and run laws in California, typical penalties, and possible defenses to fight the charges. With the right legal guidance, many people accused of hit and run are able to avoid convictions that could damage their criminal record and future.
What is Hit and Run Under California Law?
California distinguishes between hit and run offenses involving:
- Property damage only (misdemeanor)
- Injuries or death (felony)
Misdemeanor Hit and Run
Under California Vehicle Code 20002, it is a misdemeanor hit and run if you:
- Are involved in an accident causing property damage
- Know that an accident occurred
- Fail to stop and exchange information or provide reasonable assistance
This applies even if the damage to the other vehicle is minor. Leaving the scene without providing your name, license, registration and insurance information is against the law.
Potential penalties for misdemeanor hit and run include:
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- Fines up to $1000
- Informal probation up to 3 years
Felony Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 20001 makes it a felony to leave the scene of an accident where someone was injured or killed. You must:
- Stop at the scene
- Provide your name, address and vehicle information
- Show your license to officers if requested
- Render reasonable assistance to injured parties, including arranging medical transport
- Immediately report the accident if no officers are present and a death occurred
If convicted of felony hit and run, penalties can include:
- 1 year in county jail
- Fines from $1000 to $10,000
- Up to 4 years in state prison if a death occurred
Common Defenses Against Hit and Run Charges
While hit and run allegations should always be taken seriously, there are often strong defenses that an experienced lawyer can raise on your behalf:
You Were Not the Driver
If someone else was driving the vehicle, they would be liable for any hit and run, not you. This defense can apply if your vehicle was stolen or borrowed without permission. The prosecution must prove you were driving.
No Knowledge an Accident Occurred
You can only be convicted if the prosecution can show you knew an accident happened and still left the scene. For example, a minor tap that you did not feel may not qualify if you were reasonably unaware of any collision.
Could Not Safely Stop
There are situations where it is reasonable not to stop immediately – such as cases of road rage where stopping could jeopardize your safety. However, you must still report the accident to police as soon as safely possible.
No Property Damage to Others
If the only damage was to your own vehicle (i.e. hitting a pole), there may not have been property damage “to another” to trigger hit and run laws. But it depends on the specific circumstances.
In the past, it was sometimes possible to avoid criminal charges by reaching a civil compromise with the victim party to cover damages. However, as of 2018 civil compromises are no longer allowed to dismiss hit and run charges in California.
Finding the Right Orange County Hit and Run Lawyer
If you are facing misdemeanor or felony hit and run charges, having an experienced California traffic crimes attorney on your side can make all the difference. Look for a lawyer who:
- Has extensive experience defending hit and run cases in Orange County
- Understands the complexities of traffic accident investigations
- Will aggressively examine the prosecution’s evidence against you
- Is prepared to mount an assertive defense in court if necessary
A knowledgeable lawyer will evaluate the specifics of your case and explain your options. In many cases, they may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to reduce or dismiss charges.
Don’t leave the outcome to chance. The consequences of a hit and run conviction can follow you for years. An Orange County criminal defense attorney can protect your rights, freedom and future.