DUI HIT AND RUN – ONTARIO DUI ATTORNEY GROUP
A hit and run accident is aggravating for the victim for sure, but it can be just as aggravating and frustrating for you if you are erroneously arrested and charged for this offense. If you were drinking and charged with hit and run, the penalties for a conviction can be especially severe.
If the accident was obvious and you were aware of it, you are legally required to render assistance if there are injuries or at least exchange identifying and insurance information. Some motorists, however, do flee the scene. There are a number of reasons for doing so:
They were driving on a suspended license
Sheer panic and wishing to evade the consequences
They did not possess a valid driver’s license
They are an undocumented alien
Lack auto liability insurance
The motorist possessed or was transporting illegal drugs or stolen property
The person was intoxicated
There are cases where our clients are facing hit and run with DUI charges that are not supported by the facts and circumstances of the accident. Our attorneys at the Ontario DUI Attorney Group have extensive experience representing drivers falsely or erroneously accused of hit and run along with DUI charges. In situations where our DUI clients are accused of fleeing an accident scene, we have been able to get the DUI charge dismissed and kept our clients out of jail.
Misdemeanor Hit and Run-Property Damage
Hit and run with property damage is a misdemeanor. The offense can be found under CVC 20002(a) that also advises you of your legal obligations when involved in a property damage accident:
“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.
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.
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.”
Most motorists are aware that if involved in an accident, they are legally required to exchange information with the other motorist or property owner, at least in situations where there is damage to someone else’s property. You risk misdemeanor charges if you fail to do so. If there was an injury or fatality, then felony charges may be filed if you fled the scene or failed to render assistance. If you are convicted of a DUI in conjunction with causing an accident, you face enhanced charges that could land you in county jail or even state prison in more serious cases.
If you were arrested on a hit and run charge involving property damage along with a DUI, contact a defense lawyer from the Ontario DUI Attorney Group immediately.
Summary of Your Legal Responsibilities in a Property Damage Accident
Any time you find yourself in a property damage accident where the damage was not to your own vehicle, you must provide your name, license and insurance information to the other driver or property owner. If the owner is not present, leave a note in a conspicuous location with your name and address and a short description of how the accident occurred. You must immediately notify the nearest police department in the city or town where the accident occurred or a CHP station.
Your Rights if Questioned by Police
Drivers who flee the scene of an accident or who are accused of doing so may have been identified by other motorists or pedestrians by their license plate or make and model of the vehicle. If police are able to track the car, then there may be damages to the car that police feel is consistent with the facts of the accident.
In some cases, our clients are stopped by law enforcement because their car matches one that reportedly left an accident. In still other cases, police might be able to trace the car to a residence or see a matching car with damage to it in a driveway or parked on a street and will knock on the door and ask to speak to the car’s owner. Should the officer suspect you were drinking, you will undoubtedly be asked if you were involved in an accident and that you take a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration level. You are under no legal obligation to answer any questions from the officer other than identifying your car or providing your license, registration and insurance. In fact, saying anything could implicate you in a crime, often without you being aware of it.
Likewise, if you are stopped on the road, you do not have to answer any other than providing your license, registration and insurance. With a few exceptions, such as being on probation or under the age of 21, you will not be penalized for refusing to perform any FSTs, or field sobriety tests, designed to test your coordination, or to blow into the PAS, or preliminary alcohol screening test. These tests are for the purpose of providing justification, or probable cause, to the officer to arrest you for DUI or to ask that you take a chemical test of your breath or blood.
If asked to submit to chemical testing, you do not have the right to speak to an attorney as to whether you should submit to a chemical test of your BAC. A refusal on your part can be used as evidence of your guilt at trial and is an aggravating circumstance that can enhance your sentence if convicted as well result in revocation of your license for at least one year.
If police arrive at your home to question you, Immediately call a lawyer from the Ontario DUI Attorney Group if officers appear at your home to question or to arrest you or at any time after your arrest.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Hit and Run–CVC Section 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.
(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.
A typical sentence and other penalties for misdemeanor hit and run with DUI may be:
Fine up to $1,000
If there was an injury, the fine is up to $10,000
Financial restitution to victim
County jail time of up to 6 months or up to one year if there was an injury
DUI penalties including extended loss of license, habitual offender status, installation of ignition interlock system and other penalties, the severity of which is dependent on the number of prior DUI convictions
Hit and Run DUI with Serious Injury or Fatality
CVC Section 20001 is a “wobbler” offense, meaning the DA has the option to charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony for hit and run if you failed to stop at the scene of a serious injury or fatal accident or did not provide identifying and insurance information or render assistance of some type.
This section states:
“CVC 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…
(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.
(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.
(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.
(d) As used in this section, “permanent, serious injury” means the loss or permanent impairment of function of a bodily member or organ.”
Additional obligations under CVC 20003 and 20004:
These sections outline your responsibilities if you caused or were involved in an injury or fatal accident:
“(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall also give his or her 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, and shall give the information to any traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident. The driver also shall render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, 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.
(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.”
“CVC 20004. In the event of death of any person resulting from an accident, the driver of any vehicle involved after fulfilling the requirements of this division, and if there be no traffic or police officer at the scene of the accident to whom to give the information required by Section 20003, shall, without delay, report the accident to the nearest office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol or office of a duly authorized police authority and submit with the report the information required by Section 20003.”
In other words, you have additional obligations to see that injured persons are given medical assistance or at least arrange for it. You also have to immediately report the incident to police.
Child Endangerment as Companion or Related Offense-PC 273a
Having a child under the age of 14 in your car when the accident occurred is not only an aggravating condition that can enhance your sentence, but you risk an additional charge of child endangerment, especially if the accident was a serious one or the child was injured. The court does have the discretion to place you on probation and to charge you with a misdemeanor even if a serious accident or fatality occurred if it determines that your actions did not place the child at risk of serious bodily injury. Otherwise, you can be charged with a felony with state prison time of up to 6 years.
PC 273a states:
“Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered, shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, four, or six years.
(b) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of that child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(c) If a person is convicted of violating this section and probation is granted, the court shall require the following minimum conditions of probation:
(1) A mandatory minimum period of probation of 48 months.
(2) A criminal court protective order protecting the victim from further acts of violence or threats, and, if appropriate, residence exclusion or stay-away conditions.
(3) (A) Successful completion of no less than one year of a child abuser’s treatment counseling program approved by the probation department. The defendant shall be ordered to begin participation in the program immediately upon the grant of probation. The counseling program shall meet the criteria specified in Section 273.1. The defendant shall produce documentation of program enrollment to the court within 30 days of enrollment, along with quarterly progress reports.
(B) The terms of probation for offenders shall not be lifted until all reasonable fees due to the counseling program have been paid in full, but in no case shall probation be extended beyond the term provided in subdivision (a) of Section 1203.1. If the court finds that the defendant does not have the ability to pay the fees based on the defendant’s changed circumstances, the court may reduce or waive the fees.
(4) If the offense was committed while the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the defendant shall abstain from the use of drugs or alcohol during the period of probation and shall be subject to random drug testing by his or her probation officer.
(5) The court may waive any of the above minimum conditions of probation upon a finding that the condition would not be in the best interests of justice. The court shall state on the record its reasons for any waiver. If a fatal accident occurred, the DA can charge you with either felony DUI under CVC 23153, or gross vehicular manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter. The latter is a “wobbler” and may be charged as a misdemeanor.”
You may not have to serve any prison time if the court feels it would not be in the interests of justice and place you on probation for 2 years and require that you take a child abuser’s class for a minimum of one year.
Felony Hit and Run with DUI
Since this a “wobbler” offense, the DA may only charge you with a misdemeanor if there are minor injuries and you have no criminal record or no prior convictions for DUI or hit and run. If you are convicted of a felony, such as in cases where the injuries are more serious or your record has prior convictions, the court may choose to sentence you as follows:
Fine of $1,000 to $10,000
16 months to 3 years in state prison
If serious injury occurred, state prison time of 2 to 4 years
If a fatality accident occurred, state prison time of 7 or 9 years
Additional prison time if more than one person was injured or killed.
A serious injury is one that involves loss of a limb, broken bone or permanent impairment of a bodily organ or member. If a DUI is charged with the hit and run and you are convicted, this will generally result in a high term sentence. You also risk loss of your driver’s license for up to 10 years or even life.
Defenses to Hit and Run DUI
Fortunately, there are a number of successful defenses that your Ontario DUI Attorney Group lawyer may use in a DUI with hit and run, including:
No proof you were driving this vehicle
Someone else was driving your car
Your car’s damage is inconsistent with the mechanics of the accident
Your car was misidentified
You reasonably believed no accident occurred
No one at the scene complained of injuries
Only your car displayed property damage
Lack of proof you under the influence at the time you were driving
The technician did not follow proper guidelines in administering the breath or blood test
The technician lacked certification or proper training
The breathalyzer was invalid due to lack of proper servicing or maintenance
You have a medical condition that affected the test results
There may be other defenses available depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact one of our highly experienced attorneys at the Ontario DUI Attorney Group today.