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.
Penal Code 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.
The different circumstances are as follows:
- When another driver or passenger has suffered injury because of the vehicle accident
- When injuries of an accident cause 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 serious or permanent injury refers to injuries that cause impairment that is permanent or the loss of function of an organ or member.
Also, if injury or the 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, waiver of penalties in the interests of justice remains possible. Poorer people could be ordered to 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
Penal Code 20002.
Drivers should immediately stop their vehicle when in an accident that causes damage to another person’s property or automobile.
Also, Take These Steps:
- The property owner should be located and supplied with the name and address of the vehicle owner 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 should contain the responsible driver’s name and address and 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.