Hit and Run VC 20002

Have you been charged with a hit and run? Do not underestimate the serious nature of this offense and its potential impact on your life. Our criminal defense lawyers may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Contact us today to explore your legal options.

While every person reacts to car accidents differently, hitting someone else’s car or property is always a frustrating and frightening experience. That is why between not knowing how to handle the situation and fearing the possible legal repercussions many drivers panic and flee the scene.

Leaving the scene of an accident, commonly known as “hit and run” under California’s Vehicle Code, is a serious offense that carries stiff criminal consequences. At Gressley & Donaldson, we understand the fear and anxiety associated with getting into an accident and the temptation to leave the scene. If you allowed your instincts to get the best of you and are now facing criminal charges under California hit-and-run laws, we can help.

This article will explore hit-and-run charges in California, including possible penalties, common defenses, and frequently asked questions.

How Does California Define VC 20002 “Hit & Run” Charges in California?

ornia Vehicle Code § 20002 VC defines a “hit and run” as fleeing the scene of an accident in which the motorist caused only property damage but no physical injuries. A violation of this section of the Vehicle Code is always charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, if a driver leaves the scene of an accident in which someone was injured or killed, the offense will be charged as a felony hit and run under VC 20001.

The prosecution must establish the following four elements to prove the defendant’s guilt under VC 20002:

  1. The defendant was involved in an accident while operating a motor vehicle;
  2. Someone else’s property (e.g., a car) was damaged in the accident;
  3. The defendant knew or should have known that they had been involved in the accident and that someone else’s property was likely damaged; and
  4. The defendant willfully failed to (a) stop immediately at the scene of the accident or (b) immediately provide their name and contact information to the owner of the damaged property (or the person in control of that property).

If the registered owner of the vehicle or damaged property cannot be found or identified immediately after the accident, the person who caused the damage must leave a conspicuous note that explains the circumstances of the accident and contains their contact information.

Examples of Hit and Run

Let’s review some of the most common scenarios in which a driver may be charged with hit and run VC 20002. You may face these charges under California law if you drive away without identifying yourself after:

  1. Hitting a parked vehicle;
  2. Colliding with another moving vehicle;
  3. Striking a light pole, fence, or another fixed object; and
  4. Hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist.

However, whether or not hit and run charges apply also depends on the extent of the damage to the property. Below is an overview of two different hypothetical situations:

  • Situation #1. A driver hits a parked car on the side of the road when backing out of a parking space. The driver notices that the damage is minor and decides to drive away without leaving a note. The driver, when identified and found, will face hit and run charges even though the damage was not significant (the fact that there was any damage is enough).
  • Situation #2. A driver bumps into someone else’s fence when trying to park. The driver exits the vehicle and, upon a thorough inspection, confirms that they did not cause any damage to the fence. The driver leaves the scene and will most likely not face hit and run charges because there was no property damage.

However, every situation is unique and may require a careful assessment by an experienced lawyer. Our team at Gressley & Donaldson can review the details of your case and help you strategize your defense against the hit and run charges.

Penalties for Hit and Run VC 20002 in California

If the defendant is facing a misdemeanor hit and run charge under VC 20002 and the prosecution can prove their guilt, they may be ordered to:

  • Pay a fine of up to $1,000; and/or
  • Serve up to six months in county jail.

As an alternative to jail time, the judge may subject the convicted person to summary probation. Besides the punishment for a hit and run VC 20002, the defendant may also face additional penalties if convicted of other offenses. The driver of any vehicle who flees the accident scene in California may also face any of the following related offenses:

  • Driving without a license VC 12500 if they were driving without a valid license or failed to renew their driver’s license at the time of the accident.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) VC 23152 if their physical or mental faculties were impaired by alcohol or drugs when the hit-and-run accident occurred.
  • Exhibition of speed VC 23109(c) if the driver of a vehicle accelerated or drove at an unsafe rate of speed to show off or to race another vehicle at the time of the accident.

At Gressley & Donaldson, we understand how a moment of panic can result in a bad decision that could negatively impact your life for years to come. That is why our legal team strives to provide compassionate and effective advocacy to people facing hit and run charges. Let our criminal defense attorneys help you understand your options to get the charges dropped or minimize the potential punishment.

What Are The Legal Defenses To VC 20002?

With the right defense, it is possible to overcome a hit and run charge under VC 20002. Below are some of the common legal defenses our team at Gressley & Donaldson has successfully used to defend clients:

  • You did not realize an accident occurred. If the accident was so minor you did not realize it had occurred, this defense might help you avoid a conviction. Remember: One of the elements of the hit and run infraction under California Vehicle Code section VC 20002 is that the defendant knew they had been involved in an accident and willfully failed to stop and/or exchange information.
  • There was no damage. If there was a vehicle accident but it did not cause any damage to someone else’s property, the prosecution cannot convict you of hit and run because one of the elements of the crime is the existence of property damage.
  • Damage only occurred to your car. If you hit someone else’s car or another property and the collision caused damage only to your own car but no damage whatsoever to the other party’s property, you cannot be convicted of a hit and run.

While these three are some of the most common defense strategies used in hit and run cases, other defenses may also be applicable depending on the facts of your case. Our defense lawyers at  Gressley & Donaldson can review your unique situation and advise you on the legal defenses available in your case. 

Hit and Run VC 20002 Frequently Asked Questions

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If you are facing hit and run charges or if you haven’t been charged yet but fear possible legal repercussions because you left the scene of an accident in which someone else’s property was damaged, you may have many questions. Below, we provide brief answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Contact our office if you need additional information.

• Can I face hit and run charges if there is minor damage to the property?

Yes, you will most likely face charges under hit and run VC 20002 even if the damage to someone else’s property appears minor or insignificant. However, if there is no damage at all, the charges will most likely not apply.

• Can I avoid hit and run charges?

You can avoid being formally charged for violating VC 20002 if you retain the services of a defense lawyer early in the process. Your lawyer may be able to present proper arguments to help you avoid the charges.

• Do police officers have the authority to file hit and run charges?

No, police officers do not have the authority to file criminal charges. Only prosecutors can. Nonetheless, the officer’s findings in their report will be taken into account by the prosecution when deciding whether or not to file charges.

• Can I face hit and run charges if the accident wasn’t my fault?

Yes, you can. When it comes to facing hit and run charges, it doesn’t matter who was at fault for the accident.

• Does the other party play any role in the charges being filed against me?

The party whose property was damaged can give a statement, which will most likely be reviewed by the prosecution when deciding whether or not to file charges.

• What is the difference between misdemeanor charge and felony hit and run?

Under California law, a misdemeanor hit and run is when there is only property damage. A felony hit and run, on the other hand, is when another person suffers a bodily injury or killed in the accident.

• Is it a good idea to turn myself in after a hit and run?

If you think you might have committed a hit and run, speak with a lawyer before giving any statements to the police or turning yourself in. A lawyer will help you prepare the proper arguments and identify possible defense strategies.

• Can I use a civil compromise in my case?

Not long ago, defendants in hit and run cases in California had been able to use a civil compromise, which is an agreement between the person who caused damage and the aggrieved party, to dismiss the charges. However, in 2019, a California Appellate Court ruled that civil compromises can no longer be used in hit and run VC 20002 cases (California vs. Dimacali).

• How do I appeal a hit and run conviction?

If you have been convicted of a hit and run and wish to appeal the conviction, you must submit a Notice of Appeal to the court where your case was decided and prepare a brief explaining the reason to set aside or reverse your conviction.

Gressley & Donaldson: Skilled Hit and Run Defense Lawyer

Facing criminal charges for a hit and run under VC 20002 is a frightening situation. At Gressley & Donaldson, we understand how you feel right now and are ready to guide you through the intricate legal proceedings in your case. Our team has the necessary expertise to provide you with a rigorous defense and will work tirelessly to present your case in a positive light and achieve the most favorable outcome possible. Contact our law office today to discuss your next steps with a compassionate criminal defense lawyer.

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