It can be incredibly difficult to face accusations that you caused a car crash and then ran away, but you do have options. When you face charges for a hit and run in California, whether or not it is connected with another crime, you should contact an experienced Fresno hit and run attorney of Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer at (559) 443-7442. Attorney Michael McKneely has more than 15 years of experience and understands the ins and outs of defending hit and run allegations. He will give your case the best defense possible in order to receive an optimal outcome.
California Hit and Run Law
There are a few California laws that dictate what your actions should be following auto accidents. California Vehicle Code section 20002 requires that you stop your vehicle in a place that will not impede traffic and notify the owner of the other vehicle or property of your actions, whether in person or by leaving a note. You must share your insurance and contact information with the other party. Under California Vehicle Code Section 20001, if you are in an accident that results in injury or death, then you must also remain at the scene to cooperate with emergency personnel when they arrive.
If you are involved in a vehicle accident, whether it causes property damage, personal injury, or death and you drive away from the scene immediately or prior to emergency personnel arriving, you can be charged with a crime, most commonly known as a hit and run.
Statutory Consequences of a Hit and Run
If you left the scene of an accident that involved property damage, then you can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. You may also face civil liability for the damage you caused. This can usually be covered by your auto insurance.
If you left the scene of a car accident that resulted in more than property damage, the charges and potential punishment will depend on the extent of the other person’s injuries or whether the collision caused a death. When the other person’s injuries are not severe, you may be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
You can also be charged with a felony if the accident caused serious bodily injury or a fatality. Upon conviction, you could be punished by 2 to 4 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Causing a DUI Hit and Run
If you are accused of fleeing the scene of an accident you caused when you were driving while intoxicated (DUI), then you can expect to face multiple charges. You can face a charge for the DUI and a charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident. The levels of each of these charges will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case, including whether you have any previous California DUI convictions, your blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident, and whether the crash caused property damage, injuries, or fatalities.
If you are convicted of both the DUI and of the hit and run offense, then your punishments for each can be stacked together. You could be sentenced to months or years in jail or prison and have to pay a high fine.
Hit and Run Connected to Vehicular Manslaughter
If you are charged with a hit and run in connection with the crime of vehicular manslaughter or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, then you can be sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison. Vehicular manslaughter is causing another person’s death as the result of negligence behind the wheel. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. Gross vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person’s death is caused by gross negligence, such as by being intoxicated on drugs or alcohol while operating a vehicle. This is always a felony and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
If you are convicted of both a vehicular manslaughter crime and fleeing the scene of the accident, then the additional 5 years will be consecutive to your term of imprisonment for the manslaughter offense.
If you are convicted of a hit and run, then you could end up with a misdemeanor or felony on your criminal record. Most people think of those who commit hit and runs as irresponsible, at the very least, and violent, at the worst. Potential employers or landlords will see it on a background check, and you could be denied a job or apartment. This type of conviction can also affect your parental rights in family court and your immigration status. A felony conviction costs you the right to vote for a period of time and to own firearms in the future.
Defending Against a Hit and Run Charge
It can be difficult to defend against a hit and run accusation, however, it is by no means impossible. There are many strategies a Fresno DUI attorney can implement to prove your innocence or reduce the consequences of a conviction. Some potential defenses for a hit and run accident include:
- You were not the individual driving the vehicle that caused an accident
- You did not willfully or purposefully leave the scene of the accident
- The accident was caused by an emergency situation during which you could not stop
- You were reasonably unaware of any damage to another vehicle or property
- You were reasonably unaware of the other person’s injury
Contact a Fresno Hit and Run Attorney Today
If you are charged with failing to stop after an accident, contact Fresno criminal defense attorney Mike McKneely as soon as possible. He has years of experience in defending against traffic violations and driving-related criminal offenses. He will review your situation, gather all of the evidence on your behalf, and tenaciously defend your rights in court. Depending on your circumstances, he will work to have the charges dropped, maybe negotiate a plea on your behalf, or prepare a strong defense for trial.
To learn more about your legal options, contact Michael McKneely, Criminal Defense Lawyer at (559) 443-7442.