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San Jose and San Mateo Hit and Run Law Frequently Asked Questions
What is a “hit and run” case?
In San Jose, San Mateo and throughout California, when you are driving a car and there is a collision, property or personal damage or other accident, you are required to exchange information and/or report the incident. If you do not exchange information or report the incident immediately, you can be charged with “hit and run.”
Is a “hit and run” a crime in California?
Yes. In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, prosecutors charge Hit and Run under California Penal Code Sections 20000-20018. In addition, there are “civil” or non criminal cases which can be brought if someone caused harm and failed to help a victim despite a duty to do so.
Is Hit and Run a felony?
How the prosecutor charges your case depends on whether there is merely property damage caused or if people were injured. Keep in mind that the prosecutor has discretion and a skilled attorney can often influence the decision on how these cases are charged.
If you were involved in an accident and are concerned that you might be arrested, your case is considered to be pre-file. In these cases your attorney can often influence whether or not a prosecutor will charge you with a felony, a misdemeanor or not at all. At the Law Office of James Dunn, we like to get involved as soon as possible with these cases so that we can prevent charges from getting filed.
What if I just caused a small amount of damage? Do I still have to report it or exchange information for a small dent or scratch?
Yes, at the Law Office of James Dunn, we have represented clients who were accused of causing very little property damage to a lawn, a pole and a parked car. You should be aware that in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, these cases, if not properly defended, can result in a misdemeanor conviction. In these case we fight to get the charges dropped.
You can similarly be charged with a misdemeanor hit and run in a minor parking lot accident that resulted in “dings” and dents. Penal Code 20002 discusses rules and consequences of unreported collisions where nobody is injured by the offender. The driver in the accident has to locate the owner and notify or leave notice in a conspicuous place.
What exactly does the California Penal Code say about Hit and Run? Where do I go if I am unable to stop immediately following a hit and run?
The California Penal Code section says:
“The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault. The driver shall also immediately do either of the following:
(1) Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle involved,
present his or her driver’s license, and vehicle registration, to the other driver, property owner, or person in charge of that property.
- The information presented shall include the current residence address of the driver and of the registered owner.
- If the registered owner of an involved vehicle is present at the scene, he or she shall also, upon request, present his or her driver’s license information, if available, or other valid identification to the other involved parties.
(2) Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle … [that is] damaged, a written notice giving:
- The name and address of the driver of the owner of the vehicle involved
- A statement of the circumstances
- Without delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred … [or if outside a city] headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.
What if I didn’t ram the car, but the car was in an accident anyway?
The rare matter of reporting a runaway vehicles such as a car placed in neutral when parked on a hill is addressed in California’s PC Section 20002(b). That section makes the driver or owner responsible for reporting such damage occurring from this kind of accident.
If Hit and Run with Property Damage is a crime, what does a “misdemeanor” mean in this context?
California Penal Code Section 20002(c) makes a “person failing to comply with all the requirements of this section … guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000).”
How common are pleas with jail time in these cases?
California’s Vehicle Code section 20002 states that a person convicted of misdemeanor hit and run can face up to 6 months of jail time. Jail time is more likely if there were aggravating circumstances such as a DUI. Attorney James Dunn is an expert DUI trial attorney who won California’s landmark breathalyzer case, so if you are facing both hit and run and DUI charges, there is no better advocate on your side. In first time hit and run cases without aggravating circumstances, jail time is unlikely for cases that are properly defended.
If other people are injured what happens?
This kind of case may be charged as a felony Hit and Run. California Penal Code Section 20001 addressed those times where a driver, causing injury to another person or death, leaves the scene of the accident without notifying police or exchanging information.
20001. (a) The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004.
Are there additional reporting requirements for reporting a hit and run accident with personal injury?
Yes. Additional reporting requirements for an accident with personal injury are outlined in PC 20003 and include giving “name, current residence address, the names and current residence addresses of any occupant of the driver’s vehicle injured in the accident, the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and the name and current residence address of the owner to the person struck or the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with” Additional the driver must give the information to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident and render reasonable assistance to anyone injured “including transporting, or making arrangements for transporting, any injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if that transportation is requested by any injured person.” Also any party involved including passengers who were injured must provide to show a driver’s licence or other ID to any party struck or driver or occupants collided with and any officer on the scene.
What if someone dies as a result of a hit and run accident and there is nobody around?
According to PC 20004, in that case, the driver who caused it much report the matter “without delay” to the police.
What are the maximum consequences for violating the Felony Hit and Run statute?
Results are complex but the following is the relevant part of the statute. There are other considerations and defenses and so you should not presume this will be an outcome in your case.
(1) … state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(2) If the accident … results in death or permanent, serious injury, …(a)…punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph.
(3) In imposing the minimum fine required by this subdivision, the court shall take into consideration the defendant’s ability to pay the fine and, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce the amount of that minimum fine to less than the amount otherwise required by this subdivision.
What if this arises out of a gross vehicular manslaughter case?
In these cases, penalties are severe. The statute says a “person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of [the Gross Vehicular Manslaughter statute] of the Penal Code, upon conviction …, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison.” There are exceptions to this and we will explain the nuances at your consultation.
How many points do you get for hit and run?
Yes there can be DMV issues for violating the “hit and run” statute including a suspension for a year and two points off your driving record. You should receive a DMV notification in the mail if this applies to you, and you should copy your attorney on that and all related notices.