Orange County Felony Hit and Run Attorney - Vehicle Code 20001 VC
Fight Your Felony Charges with Law Office of Michael L. Guisti
Are you being charged with felony hit and run in Orange County? Let an attorney at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti help you keep your criminal record clean. Our lawyer is experienced in handling successful defense cases of felony hit and run throughout Southern California and has an intimate understanding of the local court system.
What Is Felony Hit and Run?
Understand this important distinction, the difference between misdemeanor hit and run and felony hit and run is simply, the misdemeanor hit and run charge is concerned only when property damage occurs, while the felony charge is concerned when injury to another person occurs.
In the unfortunate event you’re involved in an accident where someone was injured or killed and you leave the scene without first identifying yourself to the other party involved and fail to contact police you can be charged with felony hit and run, regardless of who was at fault.
Call us today to discuss your case in a free case evaluation!
According to Fullerton hit and run defense attorney at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, California Vehicle Code 20001 states in the event somebody was killed or injured in an accident you’re required to do the three following things, the first, immediately stop your car at the scene; the second, provide your information like driver's license and insurance information and those of any of your injured passengers to the other involved parties and Orange County police officers on scene; and the third, provide reasonable assistance to any injured person(s) in order to help secure medical attention, which could simply be dialing 911.
Furthermore, in the event your own passengers are injured or killed and you leave the scene, despite no injuries to the person or people in the other car, you could be charged with felony hit and run.
The bottom line, if you immediately leave the scene of an injury accident you will invite the Orange County District Attorney's office to create an aggressive felony hit and run case against you.
Also be advised, failing to provide your information to the other party and/or Orange County police is an infraction, punishable by a maximum $250 fine.
How Will Orange County Prosecute You for Felony Hit and Run?
As Orange County hit and run criminal defense lawyer and Orange County court Michael L. Guisti knows, they’re three common tactics Orange County prosecutors will use against you.
The first is the obvious, that you were "involved" in the accident. "Involved" in an accident means, according to prosecutors, being connected to the accident in a logical or natural manner, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you actually made contact with the other car, only that your driving contributed to the collision, per People v. Sell.
Prosecutors will also argue that you had "knowledge" about the accident and either knew or reasonably should have known about the injury and/or death. Your "knowledge" about the accident will be presumed if you, at any time, made any statements that indicated you knew there was an accident, and if it is concluded you knew about the accident, the severity of the accident will determine whether you at least "should have known" that someone was likely injured or killed as a result.
Furthermore, "knowledge" may also be assumed if your car was damaged in the accident and your car’s damage was consistent with the damage sustained by the other involved party/parties car.
At the least the prosecution may accuse you of "willfully" failing to perform at least one of your three required duties. A "willful" act doesn't mean that you necessarily intended to break the law; rather it simply means that you intended to act as you did if you knowingly, or unknowingly, left the scene of an accident, didn't exchange information, and/or didn't attempt to render "reasonable assistance" intending to do so, you acted willfully.
Prosecutors can also charge both the driver and the owner of the car (if he/she was a passenger in the car) with felony hit and run if the owner either encourages or advises the driver to violate this law, per People v. Madison.
The jury will be told that before they can convict you, they must unanimously agree that you failed to perform one or more of these duties and they will additionally be instructed that they must unanimously agree on at least one particular duty that you failed to perform.
Also, if death or a serious injury occurred, the jury must also determine the accident was a cause of the resulting injury or death before they can vote guilty regardless of whether the accident was your fault.
Your Defense Against Felony Hit and Run in OC
The simplest felony hit and run defense is, it wasn't you driving. Even if it can be proved that your car was involved in the hit and run that alone does not prove you were the driver. For one thing, how could it be proven it was you driving at the time of the hit and run when there was no eyewitness to testify to your identity? The Orange County prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the driver of the vehicle at the time of the hit and run, and if there is no account you were driving the vehicle at the time of the hit and run the prosecution has no case.
Also in your defense you may have a lack of knowledge of the accident, and if you didn't know that you were involved in an accident then how could you know there were any injuries, and as such you can't be convicted of felony hit and run.
For example, if your car didn't hit any other car, but allegedly caused others to collide, you were still "involved" as far as the Orange County District Attorney is concerned, however, you didn't know you were involved if the accident took place behind you a short time later.
It's also possible you could've been driving a large vehicle, but you unknowingly backed into a compact car with a person in that car claiming an injury.
Irvine defense attorney Michael L. Guisti could argue that yes, you knew you were involved in a hit and run accident, but had no reason to know there were any injuries, especially if the other party didn't claim injuries at the time of the accident, per People v. Carter. Sometimes for various reasons (usually for insurance claims) the other party will later claim injuries, which may allow the Orange County District Attorney's office to file felony hit and run charges on you.
Also in your defense sometimes leaving the scene or failing to leave your information wasn't willful as sometimes it's simply wasn't safe for you to remain at the scene long enough to comply with your law-bound duties. For example, you hit a pedestrian and an angry mob forms forcing you to leave the scene for your own safety before you're able to give your information. Or, as another common example, an accident occurs on the freeway and with cars rushing on one side and no emergency shoulder available on the other side there is no safe place to pullover, and for your own safety you leave the scene and find a safe place to report the accident.
For Orange County prosecutors to buy this the evidence should support the claim and they will look at what efforts you were able to take in complying with the law, such as did you immediately call the police after leaving the scene of the accident?
If investigations later show you were the only person injured in the accident you cannot be charged with felony hit and run as it only applies when somebody else is injured. However, depending on your case, you could still possibly be charged with misdemeanor hit and run.
What is the Punishment for Felony Hit and Run?
Irvine criminal defense attorney Michael L. Guisti needs you to understand felony hit and run has two different sentencing schemes, one for injury and one for death or permanent, serious injury.
Felony Hit and Run with Injury
If convicted of felony hit and run involving injury, you could face a fine between $1,000 to $10,000, and either up to one year in Orange County jail (if the prosecutor knocks the offense down to a misdemeanor), or 16 months to three years in the state prison, restitution if the "victim's" injuries were caused or exacerbated by the fact that you left the scene, and two points on your driving record.
Felony Hit and Run Involving Death or Permanent, Serious Injury
If convicted of felony hit and run involving death or permanent, serious injury, which is defined as a loss or permanent impairment to one's body, you face the same punishment and fines described above, and in addition to between two to four years in state prison, or, if the prosecutor reduces the charge to a misdemeanor, between 90 days and one year in Orange County jail.
Be advised, if you are convicted of leaving the scene after committing gross vehicular manslaughter while DUI or gross vehicular manslaughter, you will be sentenced to a five-year state prison term in addition to and consecutive with the sentence you receive in that case.
Don't Go at This Alone
As you no doubt read, felony hit and run has serious consequences. Rest assured that Orange County hit and run defense lawyer at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti will handle your case in best possible way to reduce your criminal charges and possibly dismiss your case and help keep your driving record clean. We will guide you through the legal process, represent you in and out of court, give you all best possible solutions for your case and will do everything possible to make this complicated time much easier for you.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.