Hit and Run Vehicle Code VC 20002

According to a 2019 study by the British Society of Criminology, as many as 15 percent of hit-and-run drivers are completely unaware of their collisions. This represents one of many potential defense strategies for those accused of Hit and Run VC 20002 in California. Also known as “misdemeanor hit and run,” this offense involves leaving the scene of the accident.

Although not as serious as a felony hit and run, Hit and Run VC 20002 may still result in considerable legal consequences for defendants in California, including jail time and fines. Book a consultation with the Cherish Om Law Office to discuss the most appropriate way to mitigate these consequences based on your specific circumstances.

Defining a Vehicle Code VC 20002a Misdemeanor in California

Vehicle Code VC 20002(a) states that if a motorist in California becomes involved in an accident resulting in property damage, they must immediately stop in a safe location. According to this section, the driver of a vehicle must then carry out at least one of the following steps:

  1. Exchange Information with the Property Owner(s)

The first option is to speak directly to the property owners who have incurred damage. After locating these individuals, you must present your driver’s license and vehicle registration with your current address. Note that if these property owners are motorists, you can request the same information from them.

  1. Leave a Written Note

You may also leave a written note with your name, address, and a description of how the accident occurred. If you do not own the vehicle involved in the accident, you must also provide information for the registered owner of the vehicle. After leaving this note in an obvious location, you must also notify the nearest police department. If the accident occurred on the highway, you may need to notify the Department of the California Highway Patrol instead.

If you fail to carry out either of these two steps, you may face a misdemeanor charge and a potential jail sentence of up to six months. You may also face a fine of up to $1,000. Note that these consequences apply even if the damage was caused by a runaway vehicle.

Examples of Hit and Runs in California

Hit and Runs Involving Residential Structures

Hit and runs in California may involve residential structures. For example, a defendant might damage a fence or a mailbox while attempting to park. If they do not notify the homeowner or leave a note on the front door, they may face a misdemeanor hit and run charge.

Hit and Runs Involving Businesses

A hit-and-run might also involve a business. For example, a motorist might accidentally hit a display while going through a drive-thru. If they leave the scene of an accident without providing their contact information to staff members, they may face charges under Vehicle Code VC 20002.

Hit and Runs Involving Personal Property

Damage to personal property might also lead to criminal charges in California. For example, a motorist might accidentally reverse into a locked bicycle on a sidewalk. Pets are also considered “property” under California law, and injuries to animals falls under the general definition of property damage.

Hit and Runs Involving Vehicles

If you cause property damage to another vehicle, you must follow the steps outlined under Vehicle Code VC 20002 before leaving the scene. This includes parked vehicles.

A Real Example of a Misdemeanor Hit and Run in California

In November of 2023, a public figure in San Joaquin County was charged with misdemeanor hit and run after an alleged incident in Stockton. The defendant was accused of crashing into three parked cars before fleeing the scene. After local police traced him back to his home, the defendant complained of a head injury. It was later confirmed that he had suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

When Is Hit and Run a Misdemeanor in California?

A California hit and run is a misdemeanor when it only involves property damage.

When Is Hit and Run a Felony in California?

If the car accident involves any injury or death, the hit and run becomes a felony offense. This applies to even the most moderate injuries, such as whiplash or bruising.

Are There Legal Defenses to VC 20002?

There are various legal defenses to VC 20002 in California, and a hit-and-run defense lawyer in California can help you determine the most appropriate option based on your unique situation. We’ll discuss a few of the most common defenses in the next section.

There Was No Property Damage

If there was no documentable property damage, you cannot be charged under VC 20002. Motorists, homeowners, and other alleged victims must provide clear evidence of their damages. In California, the burden of proof falls upon the accuser – and you are innocent until proven guilty.

You Did Not Realize There Was a Collision

Many motorists do not realize that they have been involved in collisions. A slight bump might be the only indication of a collision, and these alleged incidents might fall completely under the radar. It may be especially difficult to detect collisions when listening to music or during hands-free phone conversations.

Head injuries, concussions, and similar medical emergencies can result in memory loss or erratic behavior, perhaps causing patients to forget about collisions entirely. Motorists may not notice collisions for various reasons in California. As with many crimes, establishing intent is an important requirement for conviction.

You Were Misidentified

Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable, and people often report seeing completely different things after being involved in the same accident. The shock and psychological trauma associated with vehicle accidents may cause people to recall inaccurate memories.

According to Simply Psychology, numerous reputable studies have established not only the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, but also its fluctuation based on leading questions. In many hit-and-run cases, motorists have been accused of hit and runs simply because they drive the same model or make of a vehicle involved in property damage.

You Were Trying to Pull Over in a Safe Location

Vehicle Code VC 20002 states that a driver involved in an accident should only stop in a safe location. In many situations, the closest safe location may be several miles away. For example, you might have struck another vehicle on the highway. The next few miles may be filled with dangerous shoulders, blind turns, and various additional hazards. Drivers who appear to flee accidents may simply be searching for a safe place to pull over.

Related Offenses

Along with misdemeanor hit and runs, drivers in California may face additional, related offenses:

California Vehicle Code – VC 12500 – Driving Without a License

Many drivers without valid licenses flee the accident scene because they fear additional consequences. Under VC 12500, a driver without a valid license may face a misdemeanor with a jail sentence of up to six months. Alternatively, this may result in a traffic infraction with a fine of $250.

California Vehicle Code – VC 23152 – Driving Under the Influence

Those who fear prosecution under VC 23152 may flee the scene of accidents – even if they didn’t cause collisions. Driving Under the Influence or “DUI” may result in misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances of the incident.

First offenses typically result in misdemeanors, while a fourth DUI conviction within a ten-year period will likely result in felony charges. If you are facing a misdemeanor hit and run, your DUI is probably not associated with a death or injury. A second or third misdemeanor DUI can lead to a one-year jail sentence, while a fourth-offense felony DUI can lead to a state prison sentence of up to three years.

California Vehicle Code – VC 20001- Felony Hit and Run

A felony hit and run involves an injury or death. Under VC 20001, you may face up to four years in prison if convicted. If convicted of vehicular manslaughter, you may face an additional prison sentence of up to five years in connection with this offense.

California Vehicle Code – VC 23153 – DUI with Injury

A DUI with injury is one of the most serious traffic crimes in California. If convicted under VC 23153, you face up to four years in prison – plus an additional sentence of up to six years for each victim who suffered a great bodily injury.

California Vehicle Code – VC 23109(c) – Exhibition of Speed

Motorists in California may also face exhibition of speed charges if hit and runs were connected with alleged street races. Under VC 23109(c), anyone engaged in “motor vehicle speed contests” may face up to 90 days in a county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. 40 hours of community service is mandatory for anyone convicted of this offense. If these speed contests cause bodily injury, defendants face jail sentences of up to six months. Prior offenses may also heighten penalties.

Contact a Hit and Run VC 20002 Defense Lawyer in California

Although there are many potential consequences of a Hit and Run VC 20002, the operative word here is potential. There is no guarantee that you will face any of these penalties, and a criminal defense attorney in California can help you mitigate legal consequences with confidence and efficiency. Online research can only provide general information, and it cannot help you develop a targeted defense strategy based on your unique circumstances. To determine the most appropriate course of legal action, consult with an experienced California defense lawyer at the Law Office of Cherish Om today.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I be charged with a hit and run if there is little or no damage to the property?

If there is no damaged property, you cannot face charges under Hit and Run VC 20002 in California. “Near misses” may seem alarming to California residents, but they do not constitute hit and runs. If there is little damage, such as a slight scrape, you may still face hit-and-run charges in California.

  1. Can I avoid being charged with a hit and run?

There are various potential defense strategies for hit-and-run defendants in California. If you were genuinely oblivious to the collision, you may not face charges. In addition, there may be very little evidence linking you to the alleged collision, and witnesses might have misidentified your vehicle. To learn more about potential defense strategies for hit and runs in California, be sure to get in touch with a qualified criminal defense lawyer.

  1. Can police officers file hit-and-run charges?

Like other motorists, police officers can file hit-and-run charges in California. However, you may face additional charges for hitting a police vehicle and driving away. These include assaulting a police officer, evading an officer, and resisting arrest.

  1. Can I be charged with a hit and run if the accident is not my fault?

You can face charges under Hit and Run VC 20002 even if the accident was not your fault. As long as you were “involved” in the accident, you are legally required to stop.

  1. What role does the other party play in the charges filed against me?

Other parties involved in your accident may provide witness testimony. They may describe the incident to the police, and they may testify under oath during your criminal trial. In addition, property owners might provide evidence of the damage you have allegedly caused.

  1. How can my level of cooperation affect my hit-and-run offense?

Cooperating with police and prosecutors may help you pursue a more favorable outcome after an alleged hit and run. That being said, you may also elect to exercise your right to remain silent after a hit-and-run arrest in California – and your silence cannot be interpreted as a sign of guilt.

  1. Should I turn myself in to the police department after a hit and run?

Turning yourself in is often the most appropriate course of action after becoming aware of your role in a hit and run. If you’re not sure about how or when to turn yourself in, speak with an experienced defense attorney in California for guidance. In certain cases, it may be difficult to claim that you were unaware of the collision unless you cooperate with the police and visit your local department for further instructions.

  1. What is a civil compromise, and how can it affect hit-and-run charges?

A civil compromise allows hit-and-run defendants to avoid charges if they simply reimburse the victim for the property damage. Due to a decision by the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal in 2019, this may no longer be a viable option in the State of California. However, the decision in People v. Lourdes Ortiz Dimacali (2019) does not apply to Los Angeles County.

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