It is common in criminal defense that people involved in DUI accidents are also involved in hit-and-run cases. They end up getting in some accident. They realize they're intoxicated, and then they leave the scene. Sometimes they leave the scene on foot; other times, they leave the scene in the vehicle involved in the accident.
Then, I guess the issue is whether or not the police got the vehicle's license plate. If they did, then a lot of times, depending on the severity of the accident, the police will go to the person's home once they run them in the DMV and see what address is attached to their license plate that some witness was able to obtain.
Other times, if the accident is not that severe, they will assign the case to a detective who will then follow up with phone calls and letters, and eventually, a warrant will be issued for the person's arrest.
The one thing that is beneficial if you leave the scene in a DUI situation is that if the police don't catch you close in time to the accident, they can't get you for the DUI. They'll be able to contact you for the hit and run if they can prove that you were the one driving the car.
As far as what you're facing, if you're charged with both a DUI and a hit and run, it depends on whether or not there are any injuries. If there are no injuries, then you're facing a year for the hit and run and a year for the DUI.
If it's your second, third or fourth offense, you could be facing more time in custody. If there are no injuries, there's a good chance we can keep you out of custody. But, that extra charge of hit and run makes you more dangerous in the eyes of the prosecutor and judge so that you would be facing additional punishment. Our Los Angeles DUI lawyers will review further below.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run - Vehicle Code 20002 VC
A hit-and-run accident can be prosecuted in California either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the details of what happened. Most hit-and-run offenses are filed as misdemeanors, as described below.
Vehicle Code 20002 VC - hit-and-run involving only property damage but no injuries. Violating VC 20002 is always charged as a misdemeanor. A conviction carries a penalty of a fine of up to $1000, six months in jail, along with a 2-point penalty on their driver's license.
VC 20002 is legally defined as follows: “any vehicle driver who was involved in an accident only causing damage to property or vehicle shall stop at a nearby location that won't impede traffic or jeopardize the safety of other motorists.” Put simply, if you are involved in an accident causing property damage, then:
- you are required to stop immediately nearby;
- you must provide the other party with your name and address;
- if requested, you have to provide them with your driver's license and car registration.
You can still be arrested for a hit-and-run even if you were not responsible for the car accident.
Felony Hit and Run - Vehicle Code 20001 VC
This law makes it a serious crime to leave the scene of a car accident when someone is injured or killed. Vehicle Code 20001 VC - a hit and run causing physical injury or death. VC 20001 is a "wobbler" that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, but in reality, a hit and run with severe injures will be filed as a felony.
If convicted of felony hit-and-run, a defendant faces fines of up to $10,000 and up to 4 years in jail. Again, like VC 20002, it doesn't matter who was at fault in causing the accident.
Vehicle Code 20001 VC legally defines felony hit and run causing injury as “Any driver of a vehicle that was involved in an accident causing injury or death to someone shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident...”
What are the Punishments?
There's undoubtedly a whole host of punishments that could be given to somebody involved in a hit-and-run DUI. They include:
- potential jail time,
- loss of your license,
- community service,
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving course,
- having to go to the hospital and morgue.
There are many different punishments depending on how dangerous the prosecutors and judge perceive you. Often, when the person goes in for their arraignment, if they have a high blood alcohol level and were involved in a hit-and-run, the judge will not let them remain on their own recognizance. They'll either make them post bail or put certain conditions on them.
One of the conditions that I've seen is making them do AA meetings while they're out on their own recognizance. Other more severe conditions have to do with wearing an ankle monitor, which measures whether you have any alcohol in your system. The judge orders you that while you're out on your own recognizance, you cannot drink any alcohol. If the monitor goes off, you could be taken into custody.
Defenses for a DUI Hit-and-Run
So, if you're involved with a DUI, and there's an additional hit-and-run, that's a bad factor. You're going to need an attorney like me, who's been doing this for 30 years -- worked for the District Attorneys' office, worked for a Superior Court judge, and then been a criminal defense attorney helping people just like you since 1994.
So, pick up the phone. Make the call. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. We're very effective at cutting down some of the problems associated with a DUI/hit and run situation. There are also sometimes problems of proof on the prosecutor and police.
If the person left the scene, they often have issues being able to tie them into the actual accident itself. Again, depending on the circumstances -- and it's very also tough if they don't get that blood or breath within three hours of the accident, that's very difficult for their expert to extrapolate backward and figure out what your blood alcohol level is was at the time of the driving.
Who cares what it was hours or days later. We need to know what it was at the time of the driving, and if they can't prove that, they're not going to demonstrate the DUI case against you.
So, don't just read stuff on the internet. Come and meet with somebody who has a lot of experience. If you're looking, you've fortunately landed in the right place. I've handled thousands of hit-and-run DUI cases just like yours. Make the call. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case consultation.