OC Misdemeanor Hit-and-Run Defense Attorney
Given how many cars are on the road in California, our courts take hit-and-run offenses extremely seriously. Even in cases where there was only property damage, Orange County can order swift and harsh punishments for misdemeanor offenders. However, not every case ends in a conviction, and with the right attorney, you may be able to have the charges against you dropped.
Are you being accused and charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run in Orange County? The legal team at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti can explain to you what you're facing and help you keep your criminal and driving record clean. We're experienced in handling successful hit-and-run defense in the courts of Fullerton, Westminster, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, and throughout California. If you or someone you love has been charged with fleeing the scene of an accident, pick up the phone can call our OC attorney at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.
Hit-and-runs are considered wobblers in California, meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. The distinction between misdemeanor and felony hit-and-run is simply that the misdemeanor charge is concerned only with property damage, while felony hit-and-run is concerned only with injuries.
Under California Vehicle Code 20002, you may be charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run if you leave the scene of an accident after allegedly damaging somebody else's car or property. This applies to every accident where there was damage to another's car or property, regardless of who was at fault, the amount of damage the other person's car or property sustained, or the seriousness of injuries.
Basically, if you are involved in an accident that causes damage to another's car or property, no matter how minor or major, you must immediately stop, give the other person your information, and provide your driver's license and vehicle registration upon request. Even if you “lightly” hit or tap another person’s car, it is still a clear violation of California's misdemeanor hit-and-run law, and many people have faced such charges based on this very situation. Leaving the scene of an accident can be viewed as a blatant disregard for others by an Orange County judge and jury, which means that judge and jury may be rough on you if you fled the scene without stopping.
In order to prove that you were involved in a misdemeanor hit-and-run, the Orange County District Attorney must prove the following facts:
- You were involved in an accident that resulted in another's property being damaged;
- You knew an accident had occurred;
- You did not stop and offer assistance to the other driver and did not exchange insurance information.
In order to be convicted of a misdemeanor hit-and-run, the jury must unanimously agree that you failed to perform those duties.
If convicted for misdemeanor hit-and-run, you could face:
- Up to three years of informal probation
- Up to six months in an Orange County jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines plus court-assessed penalties
- Restitution to any victim(s) whose property you damaged, and/or
- Two points on your driving record
However, these charges can also be enhanced based on aggravating factors. If you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could face both a hit-and-run and DUI conviction. In addition, a common reason why drivers flee is they do not have insurance, they were driving without a license, or their license is expired or suspended. If any of these is true in your case, you could face further penalties with the DMV, including a six-month license suspension.
If you work with our OC hit-and-run defense attorney, we can employ several strategies to protect your future and keep you out of jail. For one, you can only be convicted of a crime if the prosecution can clearly show that you damaged another person’s property and left the scene without providing your information. If they cannot prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, then you cannot be charged with a crime.
In addition, if only your car has damage, then you are not required to stop or exchange information under California's misdemeanor hit-and-run law. If you hit someone else's property, like a mailbox, fence, or building, but only damaged your vehicle, you could not be convicted of misdemeanor hit-and-run.
A common scenario occurs when drivers simply did not know they hit something, and since they didn't know they were involved in an accident, there can be no criminal liability. Maybe you were in a very large vehicle, backed into a small car, and did not even realized it. It happens more often than you think, and in these situations, the prosecution cannot hold you liable if you were not aware of an accident.
Another key element of a hit-and-run case is witness testimony. Even if the prosecution can prove that your vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run, you cannot be charged unless they can show that you were driving it at the time of the collision. If someone else was operating your vehicle, then he would have criminal liability, not you. In addition, your attorney can argue that there is no evidence or eyewitness testimony that proves you were behind the wheel.
Lastly, if you did flee the scene but decided to go back within a reasonable amount of time, the prosecution may seek a lighter sentence or drop the charges altogether. The district attorney may look at your driving record and criminal history before making a decision. They may also choose not to charge you if you fled the scene to seek medical assistance for yourself or a passenger.
Up until 2018, California courts allowed defendants to avoid criminal charges through a Civil Compromise. A Civil Compromise is essentially an agreement to pay for the property damages to the victim. However, California has since changed its laws and no longer allows Civil Compromises. This is because the criminal charge in a hit-and-run is based around fleeing the scene of an accident, not the property damage. Even if you did pay the victim compensation for damage to his vehicle or property, you would still be liable for fleeing the scene.
Even in the case of a misdemeanor, a hit-and-run charge can drastically impact your life, especially if you have to serve jail time. But with the experienced lawyers of Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at your side, we can work with you to build a strong defense strategy. Whether this requires speaking to accident experts, reviewing the evidence against you, or aggressively dismantling the prosecution’s case at trial, we will provide the best defense possible.
Rest assured that we can utilize all of our skills and legal knowledge to get your charges reduced and possibly dismissed and keep your driving record clean. We will guide you through the legal process, represent you in and out of court, provide you with all of the possible solutions for your case, and will do everything possible to make this complicated time much easier.
Call our experienced OC traffic crime defense lawyer at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to start building your case!
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.