Posted on June 29, 2015

California V.C. § 20001: Hit and Run Causing Injury or Death

Contrary to the name “Felony Hit and Run,” the crimes technical meaning is 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.

Early Intervention

In some cases, early intervention by a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer may mean the difference from a slap on the wrist or having to serve a state prison sentence. When someone is arrested in a criminal case, the police officers write up a report and forwards it to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for formal review to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. The prosecutor will read the evidence narrowly only considering what the police officer has to say and his or her opinions regarding the incident. However, upon retaining the Law Offices of John D. Rogers, Mr. Rogers will immediately get started on your case and catch and speak with the prosecutor prior to any criminal charges are filed. Mr. Rogers will submit character letters, additional evidence, mitigating evidence, and/or additional witness statements in an effort to explain or show your side of the story. That way the prosecutor may consider all of the evidence versus only the police officers side of the story. In some instances, this method may persuade a prosecutor to file only misdemeanor charges on a felony arrest or perhaps reject the case completely and avoid ever having any charges brought against you in the first place. If you have been arrested, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers immediately.

Hit and Run Defined

In California, Vehicle Code § 20001(a) is defined 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 V.C. § 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.

Elements of the Crime

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

• 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

Penalties for Hit and Run

As noted above, V.C. § 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 V.C. § 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.

Examples of Hit and Run

Dan was driving on a Los Angeles street late one evening. He noticed the car adjacent to his lane slam on their breaks. Dan suddenly noticed that a pedestrian was crossing the street but not in the crosswalk. Dan swerved but was unable to avoid striking the pedestrian. Dan quickly pulled over and ran to the pedestrian to see if he needed help. Dan observed the pedestrian with a broken leg and bleeding profusely. The pedestrian pulled out a knife and began swinging it towards Dan threatening him. Dan was afraid for his life and ran back to his car and drove away. The next morning the LAPD knocked on Dan’s door requesting that he give a statement in regards to the incident that occurred the night before. The police subsequently arrested Dan for felony hit and run. In this case, Dan’s defense attorney would argue that Dan is not guilty of hit and run because Dan only left the scene because he was afraid for his life after the pedestrian began swinging a knife towards him. Dan’s act of leaving the scene was not the result of fleeing to avoid capture but instead to protect himself from serious injury.

Betty was driving on a Los Angeles freeway when the vehicle in front of her slammed on their breaks. Betty was unable to stop on time and struck the car in front of her causing serious damages. Betty got out of the car and ran up to the car in front of her. The driver of the other vehicle exited but fell to the ground bleeding. Betty quickly went back to her car and dialed 911 on her cellular telephone summoning for paramedics. Betty then ran back to check on the status of the other driver. She noticed that the man began going in and out of consciousness. Suddenly the man stopped breathing and Betty screamed for help. The paramedics arrived and pronounced the man dead at the scene. The police officers began questioning Betty regarding the incident. Days later an autopsy report reveals that the driver may have survived had Betty performed CPR. The police obtain an arrest warrant for Betty and arrest her on felony hit and run. In this case, although Betty never fled the scene, the prosecutor will allege that she did not render reasonable aid. This issue will be an issue of fact in regards to whether Betty used reasonable aid to help the other driver. Arguably, Betty did when she immediately ran to check on the man, and thereafter dialed 911 after noticing his injuries. Thus, under the circumstances, Betty will be not guilty of felony hit and run causing serious injury or death.

Related Offenses

• V.C. § 23152: Driving Under the Influence
P.C. § 487(d)(1): Grand Theft Auto

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for hit and run, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers. Call 877-888-9820 for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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