California law requires that you stop any time you have an accident to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) involved. It’s critically important to stop when someone else has suffered injuries in the incident. California Vehicle Code § 20002 requires it. You may face criminal charges if you don’t.
Various factors may motivate a motorist to leave a crash scene. They may do so because they’re intoxicated and worry about facing DUI charges. They may be driving on a suspended license, have a warrant out for their arrest or have drugs or weapons in their car.
Some people are simply late for work and do not feel like they have time to facilitate an exchange of information. None of these factors (or countless others) are valid reasons to flee the scene of a crash without making contact with the other party involved.
What are the penalties associated with hit-and-runs in California?
The court may impose the following penalties on anyone charged with a hit-and-run offense:
- Vehicle damage but not bodily injury: This is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a 6-month jail term and as much as $1,000 in fines.
- Hit-and-run with injuries: A suspect may face felony charges for leaving the scene of a crash with injuries. The court may order a defendant to pay between $1,000 and $10,000 in fines if convicted of such a crime. It may also order them to spend up to four years in prison. The penalties imposed may vary depending on the seriousness of their offense.
Not all hit-and-runs result in criminal charges. You might have known you were involved in an accident, or you might have fled the scene to receive emergency medical attention, for example. However, if you’re facing hit-and-run charges, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and present your defense.