If you are involved in a car accident that causes property damage, California law requires that you stop immediately and leave a note with your name and contact information. Otherwise, you could face a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in county jail.
California Vehicle Code 20002
Under California Vehicle Code 20002, it is a misdemeanor to leave an accident scene without identifying yourself to the other involved parties. For you to be convicted, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly had a car accident that damaged someone else’s property, and that you drove off without providing the owner with a way to reach you.
Additionally, if you caused the accident, a judge will order you to pay restitution to the victim for property damage. A conviction also carries two points on your California DMV record, which will increase your auto insurance premiums.
Legal Defenses for Hit-and-Run Charges
While every hit-and-run case has unique circumstances, the most common legal defenses include the following.
Lack of Knowledge
Before a judge charges you with a hit and run, the prosecutor must prove you either knew you caused property damage or that you reasonably should have known under the circumstances. It might be possible for a knowledgeable attorney to argue that you weren’t aware you were involved in an accident that caused property damage – for example, if the incident was so minor that you didn’t notice it.
You Weren’t the Driver
Being a registered vehicle owner doesn’t necessarily mean you were driving at the time of the accident. For instance, maybe you gave your friend or neighbor a spare key to your car and they borrowed it with or without your permission.
Only Your Vehicle Was Damaged
If the only damages were to your vehicle and there was no harm done to anyone else’s property, you are not liable under Vehicle Code 20002. Imagine you lose control of a car on a slippery road and drive into a concrete wall. In that case, the damage may only be one-sided.
Meet With a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney
If you stand accused of a hit-and-run offense, contact the Law Office of Salvatore P. Ciulla to learn more about your options. As a criminal defense attorney with more than 35 years of experience representing clients in multiple Southern California practice areas, Sal Ciulla has earned national accolades as a top-rated lawyer. He will explain your options and give your case the respect you deserve. Connect with us today for your complimentary consultation.