California Hit and Run Laws
California has some strong hit and runs laws. It is a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident involving property damage without exchanging necessary information and a felony if that accident means a bodily injury. There are also civil consequences that potentially come into play. Below are the basics of what you should know.
California Penal Code Section 20001.
As stated in penal code sec. 20001, different circumstances exist where the driver of a vehicle must stop immediately when an automobile accident has occurred. So this satisfies the requirements listed in traffic code sections 20003 and 20004.
What Does The Statute Say?
"Vehicle Code - VEH DIVISION 10. ACCIDENTS AND ACCIDENT REPORTS [20000 - 20018] ( Division 10 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. ) CHAPTER 1. Accidents and Accident Reports [20000 - 20018] ( Heading of Chapter 1 added by Stats. 1989, Ch. 281, Sec. 2. ) 20001. (a) The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004. (b) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. (2) If the accident described in subdivision (a) results in death or permanent, serious injury, a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph. (3) In imposing the minimum fine required by this subdivision, the court shall take into consideration the defendant’s ability to pay the fine and, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce the amount of that minimum fine to less than the amount otherwise required by this subdivision. (c) A person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of Section 191.5 of, or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code, upon conviction of any of those sections, in addition, and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made pursuant to this subdivision. (d) As used in this section, “permanent, serious injury” means the loss or permanent impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ. (Amended by Stats. 2007, Ch. 747, Sec. 30. Effective January 1, 2008.)" (Source, California State Legislature). [Emphasis added]
The different circumstances are as follows:
- When another driver or passenger has suffered an injury because of the vehicle accident
- When injuries of an accident caused the loss of life of another driver or passenger
If a driver fails to comply with these laws, it can result in a prison sentence no longer than one year. Penalties are no less than $1,000 and no higher than $10,000. In some situations, the driver may receive a prison sentence and a fine.
A severe or permanent injury refers to injuries that cause permanent impairment or the loss of an organ or member's function.
Also, if injury or death occurs, it can result in the following punishments:
- A sentence to the state prison for as long as two, three, or four years
- A sentence to the county jail that can be anywhere from 90 days to one year
- A fine that can be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000
- A term to prison and a fine
The court does, however, have the power to lower or eliminate minimum sentences. Before issuance of a fine, here are a few factors considered.
First, the court looks at the financial capabilities of the defendant. Also, a waiver of penalties in the interests of justice remains possible. More impoverished people could be ordered to perform Caltrans trash pickup.
When the following penal codes are violated, such as when a driver leaves the scene of an accident, it is punishable by an additional prison term of five years on top of the punishment already prescribed.
- Penal Code Section 191.5
- Paragraph 1 or 3 of subdivision C of Penal Code Section 192
- Subdivision A or C of Penal Code Section 192.5
California Penal Code Section 20002.
Drivers should immediately stop their vehicles when in an accident that damages another person’s property or automobile.
Essential Steps To Take After A Hit And Run.
When involved in a hit-and-run collision, it remains vital to get the license plate number and a car description. This description should include the color, the model, and the approximate year of the vehicle. The next step is calling the police.
Making a report with information about the vehicle is helpful. It remains essential to provide the cops with its direction of travel when it fled the accident scene. The next telephone call should be to your insurance company or agent. So then you can start a claim and arrange for towing and a rental car if necessary.
Protection from Hit and Run Accidents.
When a hit and run accident happens, you will probably be forced to file a claim with your own insurance company, assuming you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UM/UIM )coverages. Of course, if the other driver is tracked down and has insurance, you will have another avenue of potential indemnification for your injuries and other losses.
If not, this type of claim will fall under the UM, or collision coverage of the policyholder depending on the kind of insurance and the state the hit and run collision happens. This UM claim is often awkward for the victim to deal with alone. Also, going up against their own insurance company is uncomfortable for them. They are innocent.
If You're a Witness or if You Hit Another Vehicle and the Owner is Gone Take These Steps:
- The property owner should be located and supplied with the vehicle owner's name and address involved in the accident. If requested, the vehicle’s registration and driver’s license should also be presented.
- Leave written notice on the damaged property or vehicle. This notice should contain the responsible driver’s name and address and a statement explaining the circumstances surrounding the accident. Contact the local police department right away. Contact the California Highway Patrol in unincorporated territories.
Part B of Penal Code 20002 states that owners of runaway parked vehicles are liable for the above penalties when stated requirements aren’t met. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor.
Convicted people face jail time of no more than six months. Also, they face fines amounting to $1,000 or less, or fines and jail time. To learn more, use our online contact form or telephone us at (213) 596-9642.
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