Hit & Run Driving Law & Defense
VC 20001 – 20002(a)
Information regarding the crimes of hit and run with property damage and hit and run with injury are found at California Vehicle Code sections 20001 & 20002, respectively. This article covers the common hit and run crimes, their related penalties and jail sentences, and the common defenses related to both VC 20001 and VC 20002. For further information, please contact our criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.
CA Hit and Run Laws
Note: Hit and run with injury is usually charged under VC 20001, whereas hit and run with property damage is charged under VC 20002. Both crimes are discussed in this article.
VC 20001 Law: To prove that the defendant is guilty of VC 20001, hit and run with injury, the prosecutor must prove:
The defendant was driving a vehicle that was involved in an accident
The accident caused serious injury or death
The defendant knew, or should have known from the nature of the accident that the accident likely caused injury to another person
The defendant failed to immediately stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the accident, provide reasonable assistance to persons injured and provide identifying information.
To immediately stop means to stop the vehicle as soon as reasonably safe to do so under the circumstances. For example, if an accident happens on the freeway, it might reasonable under the circumstances to continue to drive to the next off ramp (as opposed to remaining on the dangerous highway).
To provide reasonable assistance means to do all reasonable things under the circumstances to provide medical assistance if any injured person is not already being assisted. This include providing transportation for any victim if that is reasonable under the circumstances.
Note: For hit and run cases it does not matter who caused the accident. Each driver has a duty to assist other drivers involved in an accident (if reasonably possible under the circumstances).
VC 20002 Law: To prove that the defendant is guilty of VC 20002, hit and run with property damage, the prosecutor must prove:
The defendant was driving a vehicle that was involved in a vehicle accident
The accident caused damage to someone else's property
The defendant knew, or probably knew, that the accident caused property damage
Defendant willfully failed to either immediately stop at the scene of the accident, or contact police
In hit and run with property damage cases, the driver may provide the required information by finding the owner of the vehicle or making reasonable efforts to find the owner of the vehicle, and giving that person the information directly, or by leaving the information in a written note in a conspicuous place on the damaged vehicle or property. The driver must then notify the police department of that city where the accident happened (VC 20002(a) & VC 20003).
VC 20001 & 20002 Penalties
VC 20002(a): Hit and run with property damage is charged as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of VC 20002(a), the defendant count face up to 180 days in the county jail.
VC 20001(b)(1): Hit and run with injury may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If convicted of felony VC 2000, the defendant could face up to three years in jail. If convicted of misdemeanor VC 20001, the defendant could face up to one year in the county jail.
VC 20001(b)(2): hit and run causing serious bodily injury or death is charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. When VC 20001(b)(1) is charged as a felony the defendant could face up to four years in jail. When VC 20001(b)(1) is charged as a misdemeanor , the defendant could face up to one year in the county jail.
VC 20002(b) Runaway vehicle causing property damage is a misdemeanor crime that carries up to a 180 day county jail sentence.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period or supervision instead of jail. Probation sentences are available in some hit and run cases depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. Probation sentences come with terms of probation with can include some form of community service, work release or house arrest.
Note: Jail sentences ordered after a conviction for VC 20001 or VC 20002 cases are served in a local county jail as opposed to a state prison. Also, jail sentences and work release sentences related to hit and run cases are subject to a 50% reduction for good behavior (day for day credit).
In addition to any jail or prison sentencing, criminal convictions for hit and run can lead to other severe consequences such as: Immigration consequences (non-U.S. citizens), professional licensing consequences, probation, fines, lawsuits, suspension of driver's license, and firearm prohibition (firearm prohibition is ordered with any felony conviction).
Defenses to Hit & Run
Common defenses to hit and run charges include: Mistake of fact (did not reasonably know that property or injury occurred to another person), statute of limitations (1 year for misdemeanor VC 20002 violations), insufficient evidence to prove who was driving the vehicle, alibi, coerced confession, and more.
Note: In many hit and run driving cases, it is difficult to prove who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident (insufficient evidence defense). Law enforcement will often rely on any video evidence, witness evidence, and confession(s) of the defendant to prove a vehicle code 20002 violation. Without at least one of these types of evidence, a VC 20002 charge is usually difficult for a district attorney to prove. This is true even if the vehicle is registered and/or insured by the defendant, because the defendant is not necessarily driving his or her vehicle simply because he or she is the registered owner or the insurer of the vehicle.
If you have been charged with hit and run involving injury or property damage, or vehicle code 20001 or 20002, contact our experienced and successful criminal defense lawyers to learn your rights and options without delay. Call today!
Quick Legal Reference
Crime: Hit & Run Driving no Injury (Property Damage)
Code: VC 20002(a) (CalCrim No. 2160)
Wobbler: No. VC 20002(a) is not a wobbler, VC 20002(a) is charged only as a misdemeanor. Note: (VC 20001(b)(1)) [Hit & Run with Injury] is a wobbler and may be charged as either a felony or as a misdemeanor.
Incarceration: VC 20002(a) jail sentence up to 180 days.
Probation: Probation may be available in VC 20002(a) cases (assuming that other crimes or enhancements that might bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.
Strike: VC 20002(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
CIMT: VC 20002(a) is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
Bail: $5,000 (San Bernardino County)
California Hit and Run Laws
VC 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.
VC 20001(b)(1): Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the 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.
VC 20001(b)(2): If the accident described in subdivision (a) results in death or permanent, serious injury, a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be 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.
VC 20001(b)(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.
VC 20001(c): A person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of Section 191.5 of, or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code, upon conviction of any of those sections, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made pursuant to this subdivision.
VC 20001(d): As used in this section, “permanent, serious injury” means the loss or permanent impairment of function of a bodily member or organ.
VC 20002(a): 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 and, upon locating the driver of any other vehicle involved or the owner or person in charge of any damaged property, upon being requested, 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 or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof and shall without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred or, if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.
VC 20002(b): Any person who parks a vehicle which, prior to the vehicle again being driven, becomes a runaway vehicle and is involved in an accident resulting in damage to any property, attended or unattended, shall comply with the requirements of this section relating to notification and reporting and shall, upon conviction thereof, be liable to the penalties of this section for failure to comply with the requirements.
VC 20002(c): Any person failing to comply with all the requirements of this section is 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), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
VC 20003(b): Any driver or injured occupant of a driver’s vehicle subject to the provisions of subdivision (a) shall also, upon being requested, exhibit his or her driver’s license, if available, or, in the case of an injured occupant, any other available identification, to the person struck or to the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, and to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident.