Los Angeles Felony Hit and Run Attorney

California Vehicle Code 20001 – Felony Hit and Run

The crime of “felony hit and run” is covered under California Vehicle Code 20001. Hit and run offenses can either be charged as a misdemeanor or felony crime. A hit and run that involves property damage is typically charged as a misdemeanor (Vehicle Code 20002), while a hit and run causing any injury or death will be charged as a felony offense. This article will focus on the more serious felony crime described under California Vehicle Code Section 20001. It should be noted that while the name “felony hit and run” certainly makes one reasonably believe this crime is always a felony offense, it’s actually a “wobbler” crime that can reduced down to a misdemeanor offense,  discussed below in legal penalties section.

Your Duties After an Accident

If you are involved a traffic accident where someone is injured or killed, you are legally required to act in a certain way. In basic terms, you have to immediately stop your vehicle the scene of the accident and provide identification to the other party any police at the scene.

You are also required to provide “reasonable” assistance to anyone who is injured in an effort to receive medical attention. If requested, you have to also show your driver’s license to the other party involved in the accident. If the accident results in the death of someone else, you have to call law enforcement.

It’s important to note these listed requirements apply to any accident that results in an injury or death regardless of who was at fault in the accident or the extent on the injuries. Yes, this means even in situations where the other driver was completely at fault for the accident and they sustained only a minor injury, you could be charged with felony hit and run if you don’t comply with the legal requirement listed above.

In some cases in Los Angeles County, people find themselves facing felony hit and run charges because they had the mistaken belief they didn’t need to stop after being involved in a traffic collision because they were not responsible for causing the accident in the first place.

If you are convicted of felony hit and run under Vehicle Code 20001, you could face harsh legal consequences. Therefore, if you have been accused of felony hit and run, you need to remain silent and contact the highly experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group. Let’s take a closer look at the legal definition, penalties, related offenses, and legal defenses below.

Legal Definition of Felony Hit and Run

California Vehicle Code 20001 legally defines the crime of felony hit and run as follows:

(a) Any driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to someone else shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill their legal requirements in Vehicle Code Sections 20003 and 20004.

California Vehicle Code 20003 says that you must stop and the scene and provide your name, address, identifying information such as a driver’s license, registration of the vehicle, and must give this information to any law enforcement at the scene of the accident.

It also states you have to stop and render reasonable assistance to anyone who is injured, which includes transportation to a hospital. Reasonable assistance simply means you have to determine what assistance is necessary to help anyone who is injured and make sure that assistance is provided to them.

California Vehicle Code 20004 says that in the event of death of someone else from the accident, and law enforcement is not at the scene to give information required under Vehicle Code 2003, you shall report the accident, without delay, to the nearest California Highway Patrol Office or Police station.

Elements of a Felony Hit and Run Crime

In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to convict you a felony hit and run, in violation of California Vehicle Code 20001, they must be able to prove each and every “element of the crime” listed in CALCRIM 2140. These include the following:

  • You were driving a vehicle and were involved in an accident
  • The accident caused injury or death to another person
  • You knew you were involved in an accident causing injury or death
  • You willfully failed to fulfill your legal requirements listed above

It should be noted being “involved” in an accident simply means there is a direct connection between you and the accident. This means you don’t always have to make contact with another vehicle, rather just a party who contributed to the collision.

You knew you were involved or should have reasonably known about the accident is presumed when you make any statements about the accident. It is also assumed if there is damage to your car after a felony hit and run accident that is consistent with the damage sustained by the other party involved. Having knowledge of the accident is a critical element of the crime in the prosecutor’s case against you.

Willfully failing to perform your legal requirements doesn’t mean you had specific intent to break the law or injure someone, rather it means you “willfully” or on purpose left the scene of an accident, failed to exchange information with other party, or made no attempt to provide reasonable assistance to someone who was injured.

Legal Penalties for Felony Hit and Run

As stated above, even though the name “felony hit and run” implies California Vehicle Code 20001 is always a felony crime, it’s actually a “wobbler,” meaning the Los Angeles County prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as a felony and then reduce down to a misdemeanor offense. Their decision is typically based on specific circumstances of the case, severity of the injuries, and your prior criminal history.

If you are convicted of California felony hit and run that involves non-serious injury, you could face the following legal penalties:

  • Up to one year in county jail, but must serve 90 days
  • A fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000
  • Victim restitution
  • California DMV, two points on your driving record

If convicted of felony hit and run involving serious or permanent injury, or death, you could face the following legal penalties:

  • 2, 3, or 4 years in a California state prison
  • A fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000
  • Victim restitution
  • California DMV, two points on your driving record

A conviction under Vehicle Code 20001 is eligible to be reduced to a misdemeanor after successful completion of probation under California Penal Code § 17(b). However, in order to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor certain conditions have to be fulfilled and you must have not served time in state prison. Contact the Goldstein Law Group for to discuss your eligibility.

Related Offenses for Felony Hit and Run

California Vehicle Code 20002 – Misdemeanor Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 23152 – Driving Under the Influence
California Vehicle Code 23153 – DUI Causing Injury
California Penal Code Section 191.5(a) – Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
California Penal Code Section 191.5(b) – Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
California Penal Code Section 192(c) – Vehicular Manslaughter

Legal Defenses for Felony Hit and Run Charges

There are a variety of valid legal defenses that can be raised to defend you against charges of felony hit and run. Every case has a unique set of facts and circumstances, but the most common defenses include the following:

Lack of knowledge – If you didn’t have knowledge of your involvement in a collision or didn’t know there were injuries, you should be able to avoid a felony hit and run conviction. Perhaps it’s reasonable to argue you did not know you caused a serious accident causing injury or death because your vehicle was not directly involved the traffic collision. Additionally, perhaps you were driving a large vehicle and collided with a much smaller one and never felt the impact. Also, a lack of knowledge defense could also apply in a situation where you knew you were involved in the accident, but had a reasonable belief there were no injuries.

Leaving the scene wasn’t willful – In some cases, our lawyers may be able to argue to didn’t leave the scene of the accident willfully. Perhaps it was unsafe to remain at the scene or you had an emergency situation requiring you to leave the accident scene immediately.

You were the only party injured – Under the elements of the crime listed above, the jury instructions state that your legal duty applies in cases when another person, other than yourself, sustains injury. Therefore, if we can show you were the only party injured in the collision, then you can’t be convicted of felony hit and run charges.

Contact The Goldstein Law Group for Help

If you have been accused of felony hit and run that violated California Vehicle Code 20001, you need to consult with our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review the details of your case and legal options. We have a record of success and understand how the prosecutor will attempt to build a case against you. We serve clients throughout LA County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact our office at 323-461-2000.