In California, you may be charged with misdemeanor hit and run if you: 1) leave the scene of an accident; 2) without first identifying yourself to the other party or parties involved, and 3) another’s property was damaged in the accident. Hit and run becomes more serious when charged with DUI, significantly increasing the need for an experienced DUI defense attorney.
There are two types of hit & run offenses in California, misdemeanor and felony. The difference between a misdemeanor hit and run and a felony hit and run is that a misdemeanor deals with property damage whereas the felony charge deals with injury. You may be charged with a felony hit and run if someone other than yourself was injured. Hit and run under the influence cases involve multiple offenses including DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, property damage and/or injury to another, reckless driving and in some cases, death, civil liability, and the possibility of penalty enhancements. Penalty enhancements can occur when there is an excessive blood alcohol level, driving with a revoked of suspended license and prior offenses. A DUI causing injury alone is what is known as a “wobbler”, meaning that it can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Looking at the charges independent of one another, in order to be convicted of misdemeanor hit and run, the prosecutor must prove that: 1) you were involved in an accident that resulted in another’s property being damaged; 2) that you knew an accident had occurred; and 3) that you were involved in the accident where either you knew property was damaged, or that the accident was of such a nature that it was probable that another’s property was damaged, and that you failed to perform the duties required when involved in an accident. It becomes a felony if injury or death to another resulted from the accident.
Some defenses to misdemeanor hit and run include: 1) That the only damage sustained was to your car; 2) that you lacked knowledge either about your involvement in the accident or about the damage; and/or 3) that it wasn’t you who was involved in the accident. An attorney experienced in defending hit and run cases knows that eyewitness accounts are rarely accurate when remembering the chain of events, which can lead to a person being wrongly accused. Visiting the scene of the accident and exploring the possibility of employing an accident reconstruction expert, are some of the things a good defense attorney should do.
Leaving the scene of an accident due to DUI in a state of panic is a natural survival mechanism. A sort of act of self-preservation that many people experience when involved in a hit and run DUI accident.
In challenging the dui charge, an aggressive California DUI defense attorney will look for possible errors made by the police officers involved. Some things to be considered are lack of probable cause, improper search & seizure, and breath, blood and field sobriety test, which may have been improperly performed.
Because there are so many offenses involved with hit and run DUI cases, it can be extremely overwhelming to face without the help of an attorney who has experience with both hit and run and DUI. The goal of a good attorney will be to have the case dismissed. But, at the very least, looking at the charges independently, getting any felony charges reduced to misdemeanors and getting one or more of the misdemeanor charges dropped, will ensure the best outcome.
If you would like to know more about the charges of hit and run or driving under the influence, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008 or at www.williamweinberg.com.