|Three-Year Old Tariyah Williams|
Car accidents are serious and stressful enough. Exacerbating the circumstance by leaving the scene of an accident can turn an already difficult situation into a misdemeanor or a felony in California; even if you did not cause the accident.
Under California Vehicle Code 20002, drivers are required to do the following:
- Immediately stop your vehicle
- Give the other party your identifying information (your name and current address)
- If other parties are on the scene, provide your driver’s license and vehicle registration upon request.
- If you are not the owner of the car you were driving, you must provide the name and address of the car’s registered owner.
Failure to do the above could result in a misdemeanor hit and run charge. Misdemeanor hit and run charges carry steep penalties. If you are convicted you could face up to a $1,000 fine, or six months in a county jail. Even if the accident was not your fault!
Beyond that, if you injure or kill someone in an auto accident and flee the scene, you could be charged with a felony hit and run. A felony hit and run carries penalties including a fine of between $1000 and $10,000 dollars, and 16 months to 3 years in state prison. If someone was killed or suffered a permanent serious injury in the accident, the state prison sentence increases to two to four years.
In some circumstances, it might not be safe to remain at the scene. For example, if you need medical attention yourself, you absolutely should make sure that your injuries are treated; even if that means heading for the hospital. Additionally, exigent circumstances might make staying on the scene dangerous. At times, upset relatives or other witnesses may pose a threat or traffic or weather conditions might be unsafe. However, before you leave the scene of an accident, make sure that you have a concrete reason for doing so.