San Diego DUI Lawyer Answers Questions about Hit and Run
Clash! Even the name of the band sounds like a hit and run. And, like the song says, “should I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double!”
Nearly everyone who has driven for a substantial period of time has been involved in some sort of accident. California law requires all drivers involved in accidents where property damage or injury occurs to stop and provide their insurance information. If you don’t, then it is a hit and run.
In California, if there is only property damage, hit and run is a misdemeanor (Vehicle Code section 20002(a)). If someone is injured or killed, it is a “wobbler” which means it can either be a misdemeanor or a felony (Vehicle Code section 20001). A misdemeanor hit and run can mean up to six months in jail, but, usually results in being placed on probation. A felony hit and run can mean between 2 to 4 years in prison, with the presumptive term being 3 years. Many hit and runs also involve another crime, for example DUI or car theft. Another crime being involved is often the reason for the person leaving the scene.
The most people leave the scene is because they do not want to pay for the damage they have caused. And, of course, if they have had ANY alcohol in the time before the “fender bender” they are afraid of getting a VC 23152 (a) DUI if the police come rolling up to investigate.
There is a good example of a felony hit and run on trial right now in San Diego County. The Defendant is also accused of DUI and vehicular manslaughter. The prosecution claims the woman was drunk and drove onto a sidewalk where she hit and killed a man who ended up crashing through her windshield where he remained. The Defense claims she fell asleep and drove home because she was in shock at the body suddenly appearing in her car. A jury will get to decide what happened.
While that case is pretty extreme, it does raise the question that goes through into many peoples’ minds when they are in an accident. Should I stay or should I go.
In fact, some people do leave, but, then have to decide whether or not to turn themselves in to the police. In either case, it raises an important question for prosecutors and judges, how lenient should they be.
Take a typical example, a person is DUI and hits something or someone. They know or suspect they are DUI. If they flee, they might get away with it. If they stay, they are not committing another crime, hit and run, but, they are essentially ensuring they will be arrested for the DUI and have to be responsible for the damage done.
An underlying concept of our justice system is that punishments for crimes are not only meant to punish the person being sentenced, but, they are also meant to be a warning or a deterrence to potential offenders as to the consequences of breaking the law. Prosecutors and judges often talk about “sending a message” to the community at large. If that concept has any validity, then taking into account when someone doesn’t flee should earn them some credit when it is time to determine what their punishment should be. Think about it this way, if a person who stays after an accident or turns themselves in later after initially fleeing gets hammered at sentencing, doesn’t that send the message of, “FLEE.” It could be taken as an incentive to “hit and run” meaning no one really knows what happened and the victim cannot be taken care of financially.
While this blog may not answer your particular question, you can call San Diego Defenders 24/7 at (619) 258-8888 and you will be put through to attorney Daniel Smith or get a call back as soon as is possible. Or go to www.SanDiegoDefenders.com and download our app for IOS or Android phones that has helpful hints on what to say to an officer if approached on a hit and run.