Have you been charged with leaving the scene of an accident? Perhaps you were confused, afraid, or in shock. Maybe it was not even you behind the wheel. In any case, it is crucial that you have a fierce, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney working on your behalf the minute you are charged.
With 17% of all hit-and-run fatalities occurring here in the Golden State, the rate of hit-and-run incidents has been on the rise. California tops the nation for the worst rate of fatalities due to such accidents—well over 3,000 annually. The most likely to be killed? People aged 25 to 34.
Why Drivers Leave the Scene
There are plenty of reasons drivers decide to leave the scene of a traffic accident—none of which provide much consolation to the victims. Without question, such drivers come from every walk of life. While some may imagine every hit-and-run driver to be an alcoholic or a career criminal, the truth is that students, the elderly, the working class, the wealthy, and everyone else are all represented in hit-and-run statistics. So, why do even the most respectable members of our communities leave the scene after an accident? In general, drivers are fearful of consequences.
- In some cases, they may be driving a vehicle without the owner’s permission;
- If the collision was with a parked vehicle, the driver may rationalize it is no big deal.
- If they are driving a rental vehicle, they may presume they can get away with it unscathed;
- They could be afraid of police contact due to an outstanding warrant, being in the country illegally, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- The driver may be worried about employment repercussions if it involves a company vehicle;
- The driver may be in shock;
- Perhaps the car lacks mandatory insurance, and the driver is concerned about financial repercussions;
- Some drivers may not be aware that they hit something;
- They may have been drunk or high at the time of the incident.
Hit-and-run drivers may be struggling with remorse, but the legal penalties headed their way could make their lives much, much worse.
Every incident is different, but the penalties increase depending on the driver’s history and whether there were injuries or fatalities. For a misdemeanor hit-and-run—say, hitting a parked car — a driver could be slapped with six months behind bars and $10,000 in fines, along with restitution for damages. If there are injuries related to the hit-and-run, you could face felony charges, and the incarceration time could be bumped up to as long as three years in prison. With an enhancement to vehicular manslaughter—the driver has left the scene fully knowledgeable that there was likely an injured individual involved — another five years could be added to the sentence. Continue reading