Bigger & Harman, APC - August 2021

As you’re backing out of the truck plaza parking lot, you don’t see a car that parked there when you were in getting some more provisions for the road. You quickly take a look, don’t see any damage, and go on your way. But evidently, there was a small dent or paint transfer that you didn’t notice and someone calls it in. YES — HERE’S WHY Can a Minor Hit- and-Run Become a Criminal Offense?

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Regardless of how minor the damage is, leaving without notifying the owner or the police is a crime. It’s not a crime until you don’t report it.

California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 20002, Accidents and Accident Reports explains that, “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.”

This California code gives the driver several options to notify the owner or authorities, such as:

• The driver is charged to locate and notify the owner of the damaged property. If the owner cannot be found, leave a note with the “… name and address of the driver and owner …”

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• Notify the local police department or the CHP without delay.

• The same is true of a driver who parks a car that becomes a runaway and damages property.

If the driver does not comply with these directives, they could be guilty of a misdemeanor hit-and-run, which carries a penalty of a fine of not more than $1,000, county jail time up to six months, or both. Likewise, CVC 20001, also titled Accidents and Accident Reports, deals with hit-and-runs with bodily injury or death “other than himself or herself,” regardless of how significant the injury was. A hit-and-run with injuries or death is a felony violation of California traffic law. If convicted, the driver could face a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, up to one year imprisonment, or both. When the accident “results in death or permanent, serious injury,” the driver could face “state prison for two, three, or four years” or both fine and imprisonment. When charged in Kern County with a hit-and-run offense, it is a criminal offense, and you have all the constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as the “right to remain silent” and “to have an attorney present during questioning.” Exercise those rights and call our expert legal team at (661) 349-9300!

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