California law requires that anyone who is involved in an accident - even if it is a minor fender-bender - remains on the scene to exchange insurance and contact information with the other party, whether it is a property owner or another driver. Failing to do so will probably result in hit and run charges. When a hit and run charge is combined with driving under the influence, it is considered a very serious offense.
The law requires any driver who is involved in an accident to:
- stop in the nearest safe spot
- provide identification and exchange contact details
- provide any reasonable assistance
These laws are prescribed to ensure that injured victims receive timely medical assistance and any financial compensation that is due to them in the event of property damage. It is applicable to all drivers, even those who are not at fault. Should a driver fail to adhere to any of these requirements, he or she may be criminally prosecuted.
In the event that nobody else is present at the scene, or if the accident involves an unattended property or unoccupied vehicle, the driver must leave a note in plain sight, providing the required contact details as well as an explanation of the collision. He or she must also contact the local police as soon as possible to report the accident.
Drivers are required to identify themselves in all hit and run accidents. However, some courts require that drivers identify themselves exactly as per state statutes while others are satisfied with the essentials only. Ideally, motorists should provide:
- full names
- address of his or her current residence
- driver's licence numbers
You may not provide falsified information. If you are found guilty of providing fake information, you may face additional criminal prosecution.
However, since hit and run accidents are often the result of driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or marijuana, drivers often flee from accident scenes in order to avoid a DUI arrest. Sometimes, they may not be aware of the fact that they were even involved in an accident until they have sobered up. Depending on the factors underlying the case, you may be charged with a hit and run (DUI).
The law is extremely strict and complex when it comes to DUI and hit and run accidents, which is why it is important to pay special attention to the following facts:
- Since it is a crime to leave an accident scene without exchanging information, you may be charged with a hit and run (DUI) even if you did not cause the accident.
- Hit and run accidents that occur on private property also violate the law.
- You may face a felony hit and run (DUI) even if your own passenger was the only person injured if you left the accident scene without providing contact details.
- Leaving the accident scene to seek urgent medical attention may provide legitimate justification for failing to provide contact information.
- In the absence of damage to another vehicle, you may still be charged for damage to another type of property such as a pet, a mailbox or a fence.
- With the right legal help, you may convince the property owner to resolve a misdemeanor offence that involves property damage through a civil settlement and thereby avoid criminal punishment, which could include jail time and probation.
- A passenger who gets behind the wheel after a collision and leaves the scene may also be prosecuted, as may a passenger who urges an at-fault driver to leave the accident scene.
In some cases, a driver who reports a hit and run accident hours after leaving the scene may not be charged with a hit and run (DUI). The prescribed time frame may be as much as forty-eight hours and the prosecution will have to prove that a hit and run accident took place without using the tardiness or the initial report as evidence. By encouraging drivers to work with authorities, the law aims to provide assistance to victims.
Even if the individual who caused the accident fled from the scene, it is likely that witnesses or victims have obtained the license plate number or information that might lead to identification of the vehicle. They will relay the information to the police, who will arrest the driver for hit and run (DUI) in no time - that's if the vehicle is not too damaged to drive much further.
Upon tracking down the driver, the police will conduct an investigation to determine whether the driver was driving under the influence, in which case he or she may be charged with both a DUI and a hit and run misdemeanor or felony.
- A misdemeanor DUI and hit and run will be applicable if the accident only caused property damage.
- If someone was injured or killed as a result of the accident, the driver will be charged with a felony, and conviction may lead to a prison sentence.
If you are being investigated for a hit and run (DUI) or charged with either drunk driving or a hit and run accident in Los Angeles, CA, it is important to contact Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney right away. The sooner you obtain professional, experienced legal assistance, the easier it is to protect your rights.
Hit and Run (DUI) Charges
Oftentimes, a hit and run (DUI) involves a variety of charges, depending on whether other people were injured or killed and the severity of the accident. Charges could include:
- driving under the influence (drugs, alcohol, marijuana or a combination)
- hit and run
- reckless driving
- bodily injury
- and vehicular homicide.
The penalties you face will depend on whether you are convicted, and any prior drunk driving offenses may be used against you by the prosecution.
Sometimes, prosecutors charge defendants with both misdemeanor hit and run and felony hit and run. This is done to ensure that one of the charges sticks, especially if the prosecutor is unsure as to whether they will be able to prove that the driver was aware of the injury, or in the event that it was minor. A misdemeanor hit and run will be easier to prove.
DUI charges may involve separate misdemeanor charges for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and driving with a .08% or higher blood alcohol level. If you are convicted for one of these offenses, you will face a minimum sentence of 96 hours to six months in county jail for a first offense. Additionally, you may be fined for a minimum of $390 to $1,000 and your license will be suspended for six to ten months.
Unless you are facing your fourth DUI and providing nobody is hurt during your drunk driving hit and run, you will face a misdemeanor charge. However, if you cause serious bodily harm or if someone dies in the hit and run accident, you will be charged with a hit and run (DUI) felony, which is a felony or violent crime.
If you have not had any DUI convictions in the last ten years, you could still end up serving time in a California prison and be fined up to $10,000. Harsher punishments will be applicable to repeat DUI offenses.
Gross misdemeanors or "wobblers" are felonies that typically lead to simpler penalties such as short jail sentences or probation. Whether this is applicable to you will depend on:
- prior convictions
- the degree of malice or neglect that led to the accident
- and the severity of the injuries the victim sustained.
A vehicular homicide or vehicle manslaughter conviction resulting from a hit and run (DUI) arrest will likely result in an additional five year term added to your sentence in state prison. It is also likely that any other penalties will be increased.
Hit and Run (DUI) Defenses
In some cases, drivers may have valid reasons for wanting to leave the accident scene. An experienced DUI attorney can help prepare a case that will ensure that your rights are protected based on the merits of the case. In rare cases, a hit and run accident is an intentional crime, but most often a defendant:
- may not have realized that his or her actions caused damage;
- may simply have been trying to find a safe parking space for the vehicle before returning to the scene to exchange details;
- may have felt threatened by victims or bystanders, and therefore justified to leave the scene.
Often, the police will track down a driver after a hit and run and apply circumstantial evidence to apply a hit and run (DUI) charge. It is possible that the driver was in fact sober at the time of the accident, but that he or she consumed alcohol after arriving at home. In this case, an expert witness will have to be called to testify as to the driver's sobriety at the time of the accident.
In order to be required to stop, provide assistance and supply identification, a driver must first be aware of the accident. However, circumstantial evidence can provide reasonable inference that he or she was aware of the accident.
In some cases, a driver must be aware of both the accident and the damage or injury before he or she is legally obligated to stop. Prosecutors will use circumstantial evidence to provide the necessary proof.
Hit and Run (DUI) Penalties
If you have been charged with a hit and run (DUI) you might want to know about the penalties you might face. There is no specific penalty, as it depends on the severity of the accident scene from which you fled. Ultimately, injuries or deaths will be the primary factor that will be considered.
Hit and run (DUI) cases usually tend to accumulate related charges that are compounded by prior convictions.
In the event of a fender-bender with no injuries, penalties will be light as it will be considered a misdemeanor, whereas injuries will increase charges to the felony category.
Fleeing the scene of an accident where people were injured will always result in while a vehicular homicide will result in the harshest penalties.
However, jail time is not the only concern you face when it comes to a hit and run (DUI), since misdemeanors are listed on your criminal record. As a result of this driving-related offense you may not be able to find employment in certain jobs if a company does background checks. This means that you may not be able to:
- obtain a commercial driver's licence
- get a job as a sales person
- or work as a delivery driver.
A hit and run (DUI) misdemeanor will add two points to your driving record, and if you receive two more points within the same twelve-month period, your license may be revoked or suspended.
In addition to the criminal charges resulting from a hit and run (DUI), you may be also face civil liability if you flee an accident scene. The owner of a property that was damaged, or a person who was injured in the accident may sue you for negligence and seek compensation for any damage or injuries. Fleeing the accident scene may be seen as evidence that you were conscious of liability at the time of the accident. This evidence may be admissible in court.
Finding Help with Your Hit and Run (DUI) Charges
If you are arrested for a hit and run violation or for driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or controlled substances, it is crucial to discuss the situation with a specialist DUI lawyer right away. A DUI attorney will have experience in providing timely and effective defense against hit and run charges and drunk driving offenses.
Get the right defense on your side from the start by getting in touch with Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney today at 323-464-6700. Specialist knowledge and years of experience can make the difference between beating the charges levied against you or living with a criminal record that affects your life negatively.