Hit & Run – Misdemeanor or Felony?

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Whether a hit and run is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, it is still a crime. Unfortunately over the weekend in Santa Ana, there was a hit and run collision that left a homeless man injured (see more of the story at ABC7 News). The young man that was behind the wheel did eventually return to the scene of the accident to turn himself in – but because he initially fled the scene, he may be looking at hit and run felony charges.

Reading up on the article, it got me to thinking about the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony and how we can educate people who may not already be aware of those differences.

First, let’s clarify what a hit and run is – a hit and run is when a person leaves the scene of an accident they are involved in, without exchanging insurance or other identification with the other parties involved.

The difference between being charged with a misdemeanor verses being charged with a felony in a hit and run case often depends on whether there were injuries sustained. Both a misdemeanor and a felony hit and run accident involve damage to a person’s property, but when there are physical injuries involved, the hit and run is then charged as a felony.

The penalties for both are tremendous. Given the following example:

Any Misdemeanor Hit and Run in California that involves a parked car, carries the following penalties:

  • Up to three years informal probation
  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Up 10 $1,000 in fines and court-assessed penalties
  • Restitution to the victim due to property damage
  • Two point on your driving record, per the California DMV

What is called a civil compromise agreement can frequently settle the misdemeanor hit and run case. This agreement is when the person who caused the damage has agreed to pay in exchange having the misdemeanor charges dropped.

The Penalties for a Felony Hit and Run that have caused injury will depend on the type of injuries that are sustained:

  • For accidents involving “minor” injuries: Up to a year in state prison or county jail, and/or fines between $1,000-$10,000.
  • For accidents involving permanent serious injuries or death: Anywhere from 2-4 years in state prison, or county jail for 90 days to one year, and /or fines between $1,000-$10,000.

Hit and run accidents are very scary, for everyone involved. And there are probably instances in which people feel that it is necessary to run away from an accident. But the overall conclusion that we have come up with, is don’t run after an accident because if someone is hurt or killed in an accident, that can not only end up haunting you for the rest of your life, but it can haunt others as well.

I know a lot of times we don’t necessarily get on the road and think about others in the cars next to us, or the people around us for that matter – most of the time we are thinking about our destination, if we are on our way home from work, we think about what we are going to make for dinner – but it’s always good to be a little more cautious, especially now that the weather is changing and it’s starting to get darker earlier.

 

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