Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 20002 – Misdemeanor Hit and Run
In the state of California, there are two types of hit and run crimes, which include either a misdemeanor or felony offense. This page will focus on misdemeanor hit and run charges covered under Vehicle Code 20002. It’s important to note that regardless of who was at fault in an accident, hit and run laws requires drivers immediately stop and exchange information. Many drivers involved in an accident will panic and immediately flee the scene, which can lead to criminal charges and harsh legal consequences. California Vehicle Code 20002 is the most common hit and run offense in Los Angeles County.
This statute covers misdemeanor charges if you leave the scene of an accident that caused property without identifying yourself to the other driver, but there were no injuries or death. A common example of a Vehicle Code 20002 hit and run offense occurs in a situation where you are involved in a minor fender bender on the busy Los Angeles streets and just immediately drive away from scene. Another example is situation where you crash into someone’s fence in front of their house and just quickly flee the scene.
If you crash into a parked vehicle or cause damage to any type of property, you are required to make an effort to locate and notify the owner. If you can’t locate them, you are required to leave a note on the vehicle or damaged property that includes your name, address and information that describes the accident. If you have been accused of misdemeanor or felony hit and run offense, contact the experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at the Goldstein Law Group to review the details of your case and legal options. Let’s review below the legal definition, penalties, related crimes, and legal defenses below.
Legal Definition of Vehicle Code 20002 – Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 20002 defines the misdemeanor crime of hit and run as follows:
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, will immediately stop at the nearest location that won’t impede traffic or jeopardize safety of other motorists.
Vehicle Code 20002 also describes 3 primary responsibilities if you are involved in an automobile accident that caused damage to someone else’s property. These include:
- You must immediately stop your vehicle
- You must provide the other party with your name and address
- You must provide driver’s license and car registration if requested
It should be noted that if you don’t actually own the vehicle you were driving, you are required to provide identifying information about the owner. As stated above, if you hit a parked car or other type of property causing damage and can’t find the owner, you must leave a note and then call the local police station to inform them of the accident. Again, it’s very important to remember it doesn’t matter who was at fault.
California Vehicle Code 20002 doesn’t require you to exchange insurance information, but a separate insurance section under California Vehicle Code 16025 requires this. Failing to provide is an infraction that carries a $250 fine.
Elements of a Hit and Run Crime
In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to convict you of misdemeanor hit and run in violation of California Vehicle Code 20002, they must be able to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, the following “elements of the crime” listed in CALCRIM 2150:
- You were involved in an accident while driving a vehicle
- The accident caused damage to another person’s property
- You knew you were involved in an accident causing damage or knew from the nature of the accident it was probable that property was damaged
- You willfully failed to immediately stop at the scene of the accident and/or failed to provide owner of damaged property with identifying information
Legal Penalties for Hit and Run
If you are convicted of hit and run which violated California Vehicle Code 20002, you are guilty of a misdemeanor crime. The legal penalties include up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine up to $1,000. Depending on your prior criminal history, the judge will typically order probation for three years and require you to complete community service.
Additionally, if you caused the accident, you will be ordered to pay restitution to the victim for damages to their property. A conviction also carries two points on your California DMV record causing your insurance to increase. In many cases, such as a first offense without alcohol involved, a California Penal Code Section 1377 “civil compromise” could be allowed. This would provide a dismissal of the hit and run charges after you have fully compensated the victim for the damages to their property.
Related Offenses for Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 20001 – Felony Hit and Run
California Vehicle Code 23152 – Driving Under the Influence
California Vehicle Code 23153 – DUI Causing Injury
California Vehicle Code Section 14601 – Driving on Suspended License
California Vehicle Code 12500(a) – Driving without a License
Legal Defenses for Hit and Run Charges
There are a variety of potential defense defenses against hit and run charges in violation of California Vehicle Code 20002. Every case is unique and will first require a close review by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers. However, the most common legal defenses include the following:
Lack of knowledge – As stated in the elements of the crime above, the prosecutor has to be able to prove you either knew you caused property damage or that you reasonably should have known under the circumstances. In some cases, our attorneys might be able to argue you didn’t know you were involved in an accident that caused property damage. Perhaps the impact was so minor, you didn’t even feel it. Perhaps you were driving a large vehicle or truck and backed into a small car.
You were not the driver – The prosecutor must also be able to prove you were the driver of the vehicle. Just being a registered owner of the vehicle, doesn’t always mean you were driving it. Perhaps you loaned your car to a friend to run an errand. Perhaps someone else had access to your vehicle and borrowed it without your knowledge. If there are no eyewitnesses and you didn’t admit to driving to police, this might be a valid argument under limited circumstances.
Damaged property was only your vehicle – If the only damages were to your vehicle and no damage was caused to anyone else’s property, there is no criminal liability under Vehicle Code 20002. Perhaps you were driving a small vehicle and struck a large truck and the only damage was on your vehicle. Likewise, your same small car struck a solid brick wall in front of a house where there was only damage to your vehicle.
Contact the Goldstein Law Group for Help
If you have been accused of hit and run in violation of California Vehicle Code 20002, contact our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm to review the details of your case and legal options. In some cases, there might be an ongoing investigation of hit and run that you are not aware of and having an experienced lawyer on your side during these early stages could be vital in resolving your case before formal charges are filed.
We have track record of success in all types of criminal cases and will work aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome. We serve clients throughout Los Angeles County from our Hollywood office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact our office at 323-461-2000.
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