How Long Can My California Hit and Run be Charged?
Hit and run cases are not always simple. Law enforcement must review the information available to them and complete a thorough investigation. That’s why you can be charged with a hit and run long after the event takes place.
In most areas of California, law enforcement has a year to charge a person with a misdemeanor hit and run charge. However, they have three years to bring about felony hit and run charges.
This time period between an incident and when charges must be filed is what is called the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations protect people from facing a case that is so old it’s challenging to put together a defense since the evidence is old and witnesses are harder to get in contact with.
A felony hit and run includes any one of the following circumstances.
- Severe property damage
- Causing bodily injury to another person involved in the accident
- Death of another person involved in the accident
What is a California hit and run?
According to California law, a driver commits a hit and run offense if he or she does the following.
- Is involved in a collision or car accident.
- Leaves the scene without stopping to check on the other person, providing reasonable assistance to others involved and exchanging information with them.
A hit and run does not have to involve another vehicle. It can be a collision with a bicyclist, pedestrian or another object.
After an accident, drivers must stop and provide the other party involved with the following information.
- Driver’s license, license plate and registration for their vehicle (if the other party chooses to request this information)
- Contact information, such as phone number. Or, if the driver does not own the vehicle, they must also provide contact information for the vehicle’s owner.
- Insurance information, such as the insurance company, policy number and phone number for placing a claim.
Accidents, where a driver hits an unattended vehicle, have slightly different requirements. In this case, the law requires that the driver leave a note with his/her contact information explaining what happened.
Another factor in hit and run cases you should know is that you don’t have to be the at-fault party in a hit and run to be charged with the crime. Regardless of whether you cause the accident or not, you should not flee the scene. You must do your duty of checking on others involved in the accident and exchange information.
What are the penalties for a hit and run?
The penalties you face for involvement in a hit and run accident will vary based on the severity of the circumstances.
A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. If you face a felony, you could face penalties of up to four years in jail and still have to pay fines of $1,000 to $10,000.
If someone was injured in the accident, you might already be dealing with a personal injury lawsuit. This is known as a civil case and does not affect criminal charges. Even if you are found to have no fault in the civil personal injury case, you can still face criminal charges for your actions of leaving the scene after the accident. The timing of the civil case also has no impact on the statute of limitations for the criminal case against you.
Do I need an attorney for hit and run charges?
Yes, being convicted of a hit and run will have severe consequences for you. Avoiding such a conviction will help your future and prevent costly fines.
Get in contact with our office if you’re being charged with a hit and run. Do not assume that you can prove your innocence on your own.