California Vehicle Code Section 20002 VC: Misdemeanor Hit And Run

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimemisdemeanor hit & run

Any time a person is involved in an automobile accident that results in property damage, he or she is required to immediately stop and exchange information or leave information in a place where it will be discovered. Failure to perform this legal duty following an accident involving property damage, commonly known as misdemeanor hit and run, is a criminal offense under California Vehicle Code Section 20002 VC.

To prove that a defendant is guilty of this offense, a prosecutor must prove that:

  1. While driving a vehicle, the defendant was involved in an accident
  2. The accident caused damage to someone else’s property
  3. The defendant knew that he or she had been involved in the accident that caused property damage, or knew from the nature of the accident that property was likely damaged
  4. AND the defendant willfully failed to perform one or more of the following:
    1. Stopping immediately at the accident scene
    2. Immediately providing the owner or person in control of the damaged property with the name and current address of the driver or vehicle owner, if the vehicle is owned by someone else

The driver of a vehicle may provide the required information in one of two ways:

  1. The driver may locate the owner or person in control of the damaged property and give that person the information directly. On request, the driver must also show that person his or her driver’s license and the vehicle registration
  2. OR The driver may leave the required information in a written note in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other damaged property. The driver must then also, without unnecessary delay, notify the proper authorities about the accident.

The driver of a vehicle must perform these duties regardless of how or why the accident occurred. It does not matter if someone else was responsible for the accident or if the accident was unavoidable.

2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Felony Hit and RunCalifornia Vehicle Code Section 20001 VC
  2. Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated - California Penal Code Section 191.5(b) PC
  3. Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated - California Penal Code Section 191.5(a) PC
  4. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
  5. Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 or HigherCalifornia Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC
3. Examples

A man is driving home when he clips a neighbor’s mailbox. The man notices the mailbox is damaged, but the damage is not extensive so he leaves the scene of the accident without leaving contact information. The man could be charged with misdemeanor hit and run in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 20002 VC because he left the scene of an accident involving property damage. The fact that the damage was not extensive does not excuse a person from leaving the scene of an accident without complying with his or her legal duties.

In another example, a man bumps into a chain link fence while backing up his vehicle. The fence is not damaged in any way. In this scenario, the man is not required to leave his information as there was no property damage.

4. Defenses to Misdemeanor Hit and Run

If a defendant cannot not safely remain at the scene of an accident due to a valid threat of force or violence against him, that defendant would have a legitimate duress defense if he is later charged with a misdemeanor hit and run offense. In addition, if there was no property damaged as a result of the collision, the defendant would not have a duty to stay at the scene and exchange information.

5. Penalties

A person convicted of misdemeanor hit and run under California Vehicle Code Section 20002 VC can be sentenced to up to a year in jail, up to $1,000 in court fines and any other conditions of probation that a judge may deem appropriate.

6. Criminal Defense for Misdemeanor Hit and Run

If you have been involved in a hit and run accident, it is crucial that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. There may be an ongoing investigation that you are not aware of and having an effective Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney can be critical in resolving the case before charges are filed. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut has had tremendous success in defending those charged with misdemeanor hit and run charges. In many cases, Mr. Kraut’s early involvement in a case has resulted in criminal charges being rejected or significantly reduced.

For more information about misdemeanor hit and run, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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