California Vehicle Code 20001 describes felony hit and run with injury and makes it a crime to leave the scene of an accident in when someone was injured or killed.
It doesn't matter if you didn't cause the accident. In fact, you can be charged with felony hit and run if someone else caused the incident and you left the scene.
Hit and run driving is typically a misdemeanor crime that is described under the California Vehicle Code 20002.
California law requires drivers who are involved in collisions to immediately stop and exchange insurance and contact information.
In all but a few rare cases, the failure to do so is a crime.
However, where the collision at issue results in injuries to another party, the failure to stop can be punished as a felony violation of Vehicle Code 20002 and potentially result in state prison time and steep fines.
An example of VC 20001 felony hit and run causing injury includes a situation where someone strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk and then immediately flees the scene of the accident.
The crime of felony hit and run causing injury under California Vehicle Code § 20001 is defined as follows:
Any driver of a vehicle that was involved in an accident resulting in injury to someone, other than themselves, or in the death of someone shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004
To give readers a better understanding of felony VC 20001 felony hit and run with injuries, our California criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
In order to convict you of Vehicle Code 20001, felony hit and run causing injuries, the prosecutor must be able to prove all the elements of the crime listed under CALCRIM 2140 - failure to perform duty following accident: death or injury - defendant driver, including:
- You were involved in an accident while driving
- The accident caused injury or death to another person
- You knew, or should have reasonably known you were involved in an accident that injured or killed another person, and willfully,
- Failed to immediately stop at the scene, or provide reasonable assistance to injured person, or give anyone personal information at the scene of accident
The term “willfully” means it was on purpose and it's not required you had intent to break the law or to injure another person.
Penalties for VC 20001 Felony Hit and Run
Prosecutors have substantial discretion in bringing charges for hit and run offenses. As noted above, most hit and run scenarios will be pursued as a misdemeanor.
In the case of an injury accident, however, prosecutors have discretion to file a violation of California Vehicle Code § 20001 as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This is what is known as a “wobbler,” under California law.
If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a hit and run driver faces a maximum punishment of one year in county jail, a $10,000, or both. If prosecuted as a felony, a hit and run driver faces a maximum punishment of four years in the California state prison, a $10,000, or both.
The dramatically more serious penalties associated with felony hit and run prosecutions is an important factor which highlights the importance of an effective prefiling intervention in hit and run cases.
Even if injuries occurred, a prosecutor reviewing the case may be persuaded by effective defense advocacy to file only misdemeanor charges, thereby avoiding the risk of state prison time for the defendant.
Presentation of mitigating information about the defendant's background, character, and history combined with timely upfront payment of restitution for any medical bills, property damage, or other losses is critical to maximizing the chances of a successful prefiling outcome in hit and run cases.
Fighting VC 20001 Felony Hit and Run Charges
There are several common defenses raised in felony hit and run cases.
First, the defense may contend that there is insufficient evidence that anyone was injured in the collision.
As noted previously, a crash causing only property damage may be properly the subject of a misdemeanor hit and run prosecution, but not a felony hit and run prosecution.
Second, the defense may argue that the defendant did in fact attempt to wait at the scene and contact the other party.
The term “hit and run” is somewhat misleading in that it implies that the “hit” is part of the crime.
To the contrary, causing an accident may give rise to civil liability, or liability under another section in an appropriate case such as Reckless Driving or Driving Under the Influence, but is not in of itself a crime.
It is the “run” in hit and run that completes the crime. In some cases, the defendant made a good faith effort to contact the other party but was unable to do so due to some factor outside of the defendant's control.
On a related note, there are situations in which the contact between the two vehicles is so minor that the defendant was legitimately unaware that any collision even occurred.
In many hit and run cases, law enforcement does not encounter the suspected hit and run driver at the scene. By definition, most hit and run drivers have fled before police respond to the scene of the collision.
In these cases, it may not be possible for the prosecution to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the driver, even if the vehicle involved is registered to them.
The driver may have an alibi or other evidence which can be obtained through an independent defense investigation to cast doubt on the identity of the hit and run driver.
Again, effective prefiling intervention in these borderline cases can be applied to reduce felony charges to misdemeanor charges or even obtain a complete dismissal.
Contact Hit and Run Lawyers at Eisner Gorin LLP
Felony hit and run causing injury is a serious offense under the California Vehicle Code's criminal provisions.
If you or a family member was involved in a collision and is concerned about pending hit and run charges which could potentially be filed as a felony, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys for an initial consultation.
In the investigative stage, we can represent you or your loved one through a prefiling intervention to ensure that their rights are observed and maximize the chances of a successful resolution.
Even once felony charges are filed, advocacy with the prosecuting agency and the court can ensure that the best possible outcome is obtained.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally recognized criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.
We are also located in the San Fernando Valley area of LA County at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact us for a consultation at (310) 328-3776.