California Hit and Run law is defined by Vehicle Code 20002 VC. This section makes it a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident involving property damage to a third party, without first providing the other party with certain identifying information.
As a criminal defense attorney focusing on DUI and driving related offenses, below are the most common questions I get asked about California hit and run law:
What Does California Law Require Me to Do After an Accident Causing Damage to Someone Else's Property?
California Vehicle Code 20002 CVC requires you to do three things:
- Stop immediately at the scene of the accident;
- Provide the owner of the damaged property with your name and current address of residence (and the name and address of the vehicle's owner, if the vehicle you're driving belongs to someone else); and
- Upon the request of the other party, show him/her your driver's license and the vehicle registration.
What If I Hit a Parked Car? What If the Owner of the Damaged Property Is Not Present?
If the other party is present at the scene, this information may be given to him/her directly. If not, Vehicle Code 20002 VC requires you to write the information on a note and place the note in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other damaged property.
If you leave a note, Vehicle Code 20002 CVC requires that, without unnecessary delay, you also notify either the local police or the CHP.
What If I Was Not at Fault For the Accident?
Regardless of whether you were at fault, California hit and run law requires you to take these steps if someone else suffered property damage. So, for example, someone may hit you from behind. That person may be 100% at fault. Nonetheless, Vehicle Code 20002 requires that you stop and provide the other party with your information.
What If Only My Car Was Damaged?
"Hit and Run" is only a crime in California if you flee the scene after damaging someone else's property (or injure a third party). Suppose, for example, you bump a parked car. This leaves a dent in your vehicle. But the other car is clearly unscathed. In that situation, there is no need to stop and leave your information.
However, if there is any question about whether damage was caused to someone else, we advise you to err on the side of caution and fulfill the Vehicle Code 20002 duties.
What If I Wasn't Aware That I Caused Any Damage?
The crime of California hit and run only occurs if you flee the scene and you know that you caused property damage or injuries to a third party. If you honestly (and reasonably) didn't know or didn't realize that damage was caused, you are not guilty of the crime.
What Distinguishes Misdemeanor Hit and Run From Felony Hit and Run in California?
The distinction is between physical injury versus mere property damage. If only property damage occurs, the offense is misdemeanor hit and run under California Vehicle Code 20002 VC. But if you flee the scene of an accident in which someone else is injured, you can be charged with felony hit and run under Vehicle Code 20001 VC - a much more serious offense.
What Are the Penalties and Punishment for Misdemeanor Hit and Run in California?
A person convicted of violating Vehicle Code 20002 can be sentenced to up to 6 months of county jail, and fined up to $1000.00 (plus court costs). But a good criminal defense lawyer can often keep you out jail, and sometimes help you not to be convicted at all.