In California, hit and run can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case. Generally, if the accident involved injury to anyone else, fleeing the scene would be a felony under California law. If the accident strictly involved property damage, it would be considered a misdemeanor under VC Section 20002(c).
According to the latest statics available from the California Highway Patrol, in 2013:
- There were 156,909 injury collisions
- 223,128 people were injured in car accidents
- There were 2,853 fatal collisions
- A total of 3,104 people were killed in crashes
The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that there are approximately 38 million people living in California, and nearly 10 million of those are immigrants. Taking these statistics into account, the sunshine state sees its fair share of auto accidents, some of which are hit and runs.
What many California drivers do not realize is that fleeing the scene of an accident is a crime. If you get into a minor fender bender (with property damage only) and speed away without stopping and exchanging information with the other driver, you could face misdemeanor charges.
Even if you accidentally drive into a concrete wall or a parked car, you still have a duty to stop and try to notify the owner of the accident/damage. If you cannot locate the owner, you are supposed to leave a note where the owner will find it and you’re expected to notify the police.
What are the penalties for misdemeanor hit & run?
If you are involved in an accident, even a minor fender bender, you have a legal duty to STOP your vehicle and exchange your driver’s license number, insurance information, and contact information with the other driver.
If you flee the scene of an accident involving property damage only (a misdemeanor offense), you face the following penalties under VC Sec. 20002(c), regardless if it was your fault:
- Up to six months in county jail
- A fine not to exceed $1,000
If someone was injured or killed, you would likely be charged with felony hit and run, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Often, we see people who are involved in an accident, but they got nervous or scared and sped away. What they didn’t realize is that they just committed a crime.