DUIs and hit-and-runs are two of the most common vehicular crimes on California roads. Both have different legal requirements in order for a prosecutor to convict a driver; both come with their own penalties, but when these cases overlap, you need a strong defense a skilled attorney. Being convicted of a combination of DUI and hit-and-run can lead to hefty penalties and years behind bars.
DUIs and Hit-and-Runs Defined
California does not have a specific charge for “DUI plus hit-and-run” and handles these cases as two separate charges. This can result in you receiving both penalties on top of each other, extending your time in jail and sometimes leading to even more punishments.
A standard DUI in California is defined under California Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC as the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While any level of intoxication is illegal, courts typically only convict defendants if they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher.
There are several enhancements a DUI defendant can face. California courts impose harsher restrictions when you already have a DUI on your record. A fourth or subsequent conviction changes the DUI from a misdemeanor to a felony. In addition, if you were involved in an accident and someone else was injured, you can face a DUI with injury charge, which is a wobbler – either misdemeanor or felony. In most cases, the prosecutor will demand a felony conviction, which comes with up to four years in state prison. If you drive commercially and are arrested for DUI, you can lose your CDL and potentially your job.
A DUI with injury has a higher chance of overlapping with a hit-and-run charge. In the state of California, any driver who is involved in a collision is legally required to pull over and exchange information with the other driver or pedestrian, according to Vehicle Code 20001 VC. If either driver leaves the scene without reporting it to the police, then they can be charged with a hit-and-run.
Hit-and-runs are either misdemeanors or felonies: misdemeanor hit-and-runs apply to cases where there was only property damage, while felony hit-and-runs involve injuries. Both can have a serious impact on your future, but your defense will depend on the nature of your actions and your intent.
The Dangerous Crossroads
You can be charged with both a DUI and a hit-and-run if you:
- Operated a motor vehicle while intoxicated;
- Were involved in a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian; and
- Left the scene without stopping to report the collision.
The penalties for these actions will depend on the accident. If the other driver was injured, then you are looking at both a felony DUI with injury and a felony hit-and-run. However, if there was only property damage, then both charges may be reduced to misdemeanors. Despite this, a judge may order you to serve a consecutive sentence, meaning you have to serve both sentences back-to-back, extending the amount of time you have to spend behind bars for just one incident.
Defending Your Future
Because these are two separate charges, you should only trust your case to a skilled Orange County traffic crimes defense attorney who has experience with both. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we understand the stark future you are facing, but we firmly believe that every person deserves a strong defense. If you bring your case to us, we can sit down with you in a free consultation and explore how to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Call us today at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to learn what Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can do for you.