California Vehicle Code Section 20002(b) VC: Runaway Vehicle Causing Property Damage

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimerunaway vehicle

When considering the dangers automobiles pose, it is easy to focus on the reckless operation of a vehicle and how someone’s unsafe driving can cause serious damage or injuries. However, an unattended automobile that becomes a runaway vehicle can also cause serious damage to life and property. Under California Vehicle Code Section 20002(b) VC, parking a vehicle that becomes a runaway vehicle and subsequently causes property damage may be a criminal offense, if the defendant does not comply with certain notification and reporting requirements.

In order to prove a defendant is guilty of a crime under California Vehicle Code Section 20002(b) VC, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant parked a vehicle.

  2. The vehicle became a runaway vehicle.

  3. The vehicle became involved in an accident resulting in damage to property attended or unattended.

  4. AND the defendant willfully failed to immediately provide the owner or person in control of the damaged property with the defendant’s contact information or the contact information of the vehicle’s owner, if owned by another party.

The owner of the runaway vehicle may comply with the notice and reporting requirements in the following ways:

  1. He or she may find the owner or person in control of the damaged property and directly provide the requisite information directly.

  2. OR he or she may leave the required information in a written note in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other damaged property. The owner of the runaway vehicle must then alert the proper authorities about the incident without unnecessary delay.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Misdemeanor Hit and Run – California Vehicle Code Section 20002(a) VC
  2. Felony Hit and Run – California Vehicle Code Section 20001 VC
3. Examples

A man parks his car on a steep hill and engages his parking brake. The brake gives out while the man is attending to business. The man’s car becomes a runaway vehicle that careens down the hill until it collides with another parked car. The man is shocked when he learns what happens. His car is still operable but he notices damage to the parked vehicle. The man leaves a note under the windshield wiper of the other vehicle that includes his name, phone number and insurance information. He then reports the runaway vehicle to the local police. This man would not be criminally liable under California Vehicle Code Section 20002(b) VC because he properly complied with the notice and reporting requirements.

In another example, a man is getting out of his car but leaves the gear shift in neutral. When he gets out of the vehicle, it travels down the natural slope of the road and collides into a retaining wall on another person’s property. The man assesses the damage and notices that there is some damage to the retaining wall, but nothing serious. The man decides to leave without trying to contact the property’s owner. This man could be prosecuted for having a runaway vehicle causing property damage in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 20002(b) VC.

4. Defenses to Runaway Vehicle Causing Property Damage

If the runaway vehicle does not cause any damage, the defendant would not be guilty of this offense even if he or she leaves the scene of the accident without leaving contact information. However, a defendant should be careful before leaving, as damage may not be immediately visible.

5. Penalties

Someone convicted of having a runaway vehicle that causes property damage can be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail in addition to a $1,000 court fine.

6. Criminal Defense for Runaway Vehicle Causing Property Damage Cases

If you or a loved one have been involved in an incident involving a runaway vehicle that resulted in property damage, it is very important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately as criminal charges could be possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly skilled at handling cases like this through all stages of the criminal filing and court process. In many cases if Mr. Kraut is retained early enough and is able to intervene, criminal charges may be avoided altogether.

For more information about runaway vehicle causing property damage cases, 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 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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