Posted on June 29, 2015

California Felony “Hit & Run” Law – Vehicle Code 20001(a) VC

Contrary to the name “Felony Hit and Run,” the crime is technically labeled as a wobbler offense which means the prosecutor can elect to charge someone with a felony or a misdemeanor. Factors the prosecutor considers are the severity of the circumstances and ones prior criminal history. In most cases, law enforcement seeks to question you to determine if you were the driver or not regardless if you are the registered owner of the vehicle. If police officers are attempting to contact you to give a statement, then immediately contact a lawyer and make no statement. Hit and run charges can be very technically often requiring a delicate analysis of the circumstances often times revealing a number of defenses to earn a dismissal of the charges or acquittal at trial.

Legal Definition for Felony Hit & Run

In California, Vehicle Code 20001(a) vc statutorily defines felony hit & run as, “The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident…” This section also includes under VC 20003(a) that a person must stop and the scene and provide his or her name, current residence address, any identifying information such as a driver’s license, registration number of the vehicle, among others, and must give this information to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident. This section also requires that a person must stop and render reasonable assistance to any person injured, including transporting to the hospital.

What is the Government Required to Prove?

According to CALCRIM 2140, in order for someone to be found guilty of hit and run causing injury or death, the prosecutor must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Defendant was involved in a vehicle accident while driving

2. The accident caused the death or serious injury to another

3. Defendant knew that he or she had been involved in an accident that injured another

4. Defendant willfully failed to perform one or more of the following:

a. Stop immediately at the scene

b. Failed to show identifying information to another person at the scene or police officer

c. Provide reasonable assistance to any person injured in the accident

OR

d. To give to the person struck or occupants of any vehicle collided with or any police officer at the scene of the accident all of the following information:

i. Name and current address

ii. Registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving

iii. Name and current residence address of owner of the vehicle

iv. Name and current address of all those injured in defendant’s vehicle

OR

e. The driver must, without unnecessary delay, notify either the police department off the city where the accident happened or the local headquarters of the California Highway Patrol if the accident happened in an unincorporated area

Legal Defenses to Hit and Run – VC 20001

• Mistaken Identification

• You provided reasonable assistance after the accident

• You did not willfully flee the scene but instead it was accidental

• The other driver/passenger threatened you and placed you in reasonable fear

• The accident was not the cause of death or bodily injury

• You had no reasonable reason to believe you injured someone else

• The other person is fabricating or exaggerating the circumstances against you

What is the Punishment for Hit & Run?

As noted above, VC 20001 is a wobbler offense which means that one can be convicted under this statute as a misdemeanor or a felony. If death or serious injury occurred a result of the accident, as to a felony, the sentence range is 2, 3, or 4 years in California state prison. However, if convicted as a misdemeanor, one faces up to one year in the county jail, but must serve a minimum of 90 days in the county jail. Additionally, fines range from $1,000 up to $10,000. Furthermore, counseling classes and probation will almost always follow. For either a felony or misdemeanor conviction, one can expect to pay restitution to the victims of the collision.

Reducing Felony to a Misdemeanor

A conviction under VC 20001 is eligible to be reduced to a misdemeanor upon successful completion of probation pursuant to Penal Code § 17(b). Upon being granted the reduction, the law will no longer recognize you to be convicted of a felony and the conviction will be a misdemeanor “for all purposes,” including restoring firearm rights. In order to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor certain conditions must be fulfilled and one must not have served time in state prison. For more information or to discuss your eligibility, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for hit and run under VC 20001, then contact an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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