A hit and run incident is far more serious than typical traffic violations. Normally, drivers involved in accidents must exchange personal and insurance information, and if there are any injuries, they are required to render aid. However, in moments of panic or fear, some choose to flee rather than offering assistance. Below are seven essential pieces of information to understand if you find yourself ticketed for hit and run or if you leave an accident scene without reporting it.
When you have a hit and run ticket, it is usually about property damage only. However, despite it being only property damage with no injuries, there is still the potential for criminal charges against you. The criminal charges would be related to a hit and run accident where you failed to provide reasonable assistance, even if you hit an unattended vehicle. The maximum sentence for a hit and run involving property damage can be up to six months in jail. If you are facing a charge like this, it is important to contact a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with these types of charges.
1. Understanding the Consequences of Hit and Run
Hit and run tickets are issued regardless of who is at fault. Returning to the scene after fleeing won’t mitigate the repercussions. Even if you wait nearby for officers or if the incident wasn’t your fault, fleeing the scene can still lead to a hit and run charge. In such cases, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office typically prosecutes based on the available facts.
f your ticket only involves property damage, then that is a good thing. Property damage can be handled by the insurance companies. However, if there is an injured person in your case, that complicates matters. Bodily injuries always bring the potential for a case to be filed as a felony, affecting the potential days in jail you face. If there was great bodily injury, you are looking at more consequences because of the type of accident. However, if it is just a hit and run on an unattended vehicle, then it will be a matter of restitution. Although it is not just an ordinary traffic ticket, the fact that you drove away does present itself as a problem. In the case of bodily injury, the facts will come down to whether the injury was minor and whether the medical assistance rendered was able to prevent it from becoming a great bodily injury type of case.
2. Legal Obligations After Striking a Parked Car
Drivers are legally obligated to leave a note with all necessary information if they hit a parked car and cannot locate the owner immediately. Failing to do so can lead to a hit and run ticket, especially if the damage is substantial, exceeding $500.
If you fail to leave a note after an auto accident, a police officer will reach out to you and confront you about it. The initial contact from the police officer will come in either a phone call or a business card left at your front door. In some cities, they also send mail to your place, demanding that you call them. As a knowledgeable attorney working in the criminal defense field, I advise my clients who are allegedly hit and run drivers to never answer these mails. There is a strong defense at their disposal if they do not admit to being the driver of the car at the time. The reason is that another person could be driving their car, whether it be a brother, friend, girlfriend, or son. By admitting and giving a reason why a person left the scene of a crime, it cuts off these potential defenses.
These legal defenses are important in the defense strategy for the purpose of clearing your case. If handled right and stopped during the investigation phase, a client can get his car back while at the same time avoiding prosecution for the auto accidents. Following the legal advice of your attorney is one of the most important things you can do.
Many people make the mistake of thinking they can march into the police station and outsmart a police officer. In many cases, this works out very differently. Inevitably, they give a story filled with so many contradictions, leaving the police officer a way to fill in the rest of the story. This makes it very difficult to fight the case in court and paint a picture of reasonable doubt.
3. Rights and Legal Protections After Leaving the Scene
After leaving an accident scene, if caught, it’s crucial to exercise your right to remain silent, as you are not obliged to converse with law enforcement. A hit and run ticket is a serious criminal offense, and anything you say can be used against you.
If you leave the scene of an accident, it is important that you remain silent. Failure to do so can result in criminal penalties. It is crucial to remain silent and request your attorney’s presence if you are contacted by the police. This is important even if you are not the driver at fault at the crash scene.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that because the other driver was at fault, they are absolved of a hit and run, but this is not the case. You must stop and exchange information, even if you are not the driver at fault. Additionally, a patrol officer may confront you, claiming they have you on surveillance cameras showing your face behind the wheel, or they may say something like ‘You left your driver’s license in the car and took off on foot. It’s obvious we know who you are.’
However, you are in control here. None of this matters if you exercise your right to remain silent and take advantage of the legal protections afforded to you by the Constitution. By doing this, you can keep criminal penalties at bay and set up your defense for a hit and run case.
4. Criminal Penalties for Hit and Run
In California, the repercussions for hit and run can be severe, including up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1000. Depending on the level of injuries and whether you offer aid, you may face either misdemeanor or felony charges, with potential jail time extending to three years. Consulting a hit and run attorney is crucial in such circumstances.
5. Administrative Consequences from the DMV
Regardless of a hit and run conviction, you may still face administrative penalties from the California DMV Driver Safety Office, including a potential license suspension. However, the DMV faces challenges in suspending licenses due to proof issues and restrictions on using hearsay statements from accident reports.
6. Civil Penalties for Hit and Run Incidents
Even if not criminally charged, you can still face civil liability. Plaintiffs can pursue claims against the registered owner of the vehicle based on license plate information alone. False statements to your insurance company about the incident can also lead to additional charges of insurance fraud.
What immediate steps should I take to protect my rights if I am given a hit and run ticket?
If you receive a hit and run ticket, you should immediately start preparing for your court date, as failure to appear will result in an arrest warrant. Conversely, appearing in court unprepared could lead to a criminal conviction for a hit and run on your record. Obtaining counsel is crucial.
Can returning to the scene after fleeing help mitigate the charges related to a hit and run ticket?
No, once the incident occurs, it is finalized. The Orange County District Attorney will not award any leniency for returning; in fact, they may use it against you.
How can your experience with local police departments and the Orange County Courthouse aid my hit and run case?
Each local police department has its own traffic investigator. An attorney familiar with these investigators and their expectations can be advantageous for your case. Additionally, an attorney who collaborates well with both the investigator and the prosecutor on your case can be beneficial. Utilizing this synergy can potentially lead to case dismissal.
Can I still be charged with a hit and run if the accident was not my fault, and can you help me fight this charge?
A hit and run charge can always be contested and has a high probability of getting dismissed, irrespective of whether the accident was your fault.
How can I avoid criminal and civil penalties after receiving a hit and run ticket, and how can you assist in this process?
Many hit and run cases are dismissable due to various reasons such as lack of driver identification at the scene, minor accident occurrence, negotiations with the prosecutor or the judge.
How crucial is it to exercise my right to remain silent when caught, and can you provide guidance on when and what I should communicate?
When interacting with law enforcement officers, it’s vital to refrain from making any statements; anything you say can be used against you. It is crucial to request an attorney and refrain from speaking until one is present. Any attempt to explain your situation can jeopardize your defenses or lead to unintentional admissions.
How can you assist me with potential insurance issues, like denial of coverage or allegations of insurance fraud after a hit and run incident?
In hit and run cases, it is essential not to deceive your insurance company as it raises the risk of an insurance fraud charge, converting a misdemeanor hit and run to a felony insurance fraud case. Balancing this while seeking reimbursement for your damages requires discreet actions and legal counsel to avoid further complications with investigating officers or prosecutors.
We Are Here to Help with Your Hit and Run Ticket
If you’ve received a hit and run ticket in Orange County, contact us at (714) 589-3063 for a free legal consultation. As an experienced criminal defense lawyer, I am well-acquainted with handling hit and run tickets and local law enforcement procedures and officers.