In the state of California, hit and run accidents can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. While the judge has some discretion in determining how the charges are filed, there are some cases that are more likely to be charged as one or the other. Keep reading to learn more, and then contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 if you are in need of a free legal consultation.
The Basic Differences
First and foremost, we can put it simply: in most cases, a hit and run is charged as a felony if it caused serious injury, while a hit and run that resulted in property damage but no injuries will be charged as a misdemeanor. However, there are exceptions and additions to these basic rules.
More About the Laws Regarding Hit and Run
In California, you cannot willfully leave the scene of an accident if you knew or should have reasonably known an injury occurred, or property was damaged. When the extent of the damages are related to property, the charge is most likely to be a misdemeanor. However, if there was an injury, then the state will decide if it should be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
In most cases, the difference will be based on the severity of the injuries. If the injury is permanent, serious, or fatal, then the case will be prosecuted as a felony. If the injury was minor, then it is more likely to be charged as a misdemeanor.
Elements of a Hit and Run Case
In order to prove their case, a prosecutor must show that the defendant fled the scene of an accident if the following four elements are present:
- The defendant was driving a vehicle and was involved in a collision with another vehicle
- The accident caused property damage and/or personal injury to someone else
- The defendant knew (or should have known) that they were in an accident in which an injury or property damage likely occurred
- The defendant willfully failed to stop to provide assistance and/or provide the information they were legally obligated to provide
If the prosecutor cannot prove all four elements, then they have not met their burden of proof.
Defense Options to Charges of Hit and Run
As is true of any criminal case, the best defense to this charge depends on the facts of the case. Generally, we will work to show that one of the four elements described was not present. This could mean that the defendant was not the one driving, they did not know that they caused damage, or that they did not willfully choose to leave the scene. Contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 if you require a free legal consultation.