Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a serious crime in the state of California. Causing an accident in your drunken or drugged state will attract even more penalties. Your penalties could be heightened if you fled from the crash scene without offering help and not leave your details behind. That is why the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm is here to help you or your loved one if you are facing serious charges of a DUI Hit and Run. Our competent attorneys will put forth the best defense to convince the judge to either drop or reduce your charges.
An Overview of DUI Hit and Run
DUI Hit and Run occurs when a motorist driving a vehicle while under the effect of drugs or alcohol causes an accident and then flees from the accident scene. Both DUI and Hit & Run are serious crimes in the state of California. This means that a person facing both charges is at a risk of facing severe penalties, including hefty fines and a long time of service behind bars. In California, there are two types of charges for DUI Hit and Run that a person could face:
- DUI Hit and Run with physical injury as provided under Section 20001 of CA Vehicle Code
- DUI Hit and Run with property damage as provided under Section 20002 of CA Vehicle Code
If you are facing any of the two charges above, there are certain things you need to keep in mind:
- A driver doesn’t need to be liable for causing the accident to be accused of DUI. As long as you fled from the accident scene, and you were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will face the charges of DUI Hit and Run even if another person was at fault.
- If the accident resulted in physical injuries or property damage, there are statutory duties of a driver that you must comply with, including stopping, helping the injured, providing your information and waiting for law enforcement officers. This should be done even though the person injured in the accident was your passenger.
- The only time a driver is not expected to stop at the accident scene is if they were seriously injured and had to rush to the hospital for medical treatment
A person driving while intoxicated will panic so quickly if they were involved in a road crash. This is the reason why most of them flee the accident scene even when they are not at fault. For that reason, it is good to consult an experienced DUI attorney to help you with your case. Charges for DUI Hit and Run will attract both charges and penalties for DUI and Hit and Run. A competent attorney will come up with a good defense plan to fight both charges in court and have the judge reduce, or drop them.
To understand the significance of DUI Hit and Run, let us look at the two charges separately.
California DUI happens when a person operates a vehicle while they are impaired by drugs or alcohol. Operating a vehicle while impaired is among the leading cause of car accidents in the state. That is why state laws are strict on anyone found guilty of DUI. The common DUI convictions in the state are those imposed on drivers who are found to be driving with a BAC that exceeds the legal limit of 0.08%.
There are several state laws in place that are used to convict DUI offenders in California:
- Section 23152(a) of the state's vehicle Code - this law makes it illegal for any driver to operate a vehicle under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Any amount of drugs or alcohol that is capable of impairing a driver's physical or mental ability to operate a vehicle is illegal. Your BAC level is not needed for you to be charged under this law
- Section 23152(b) of the state’s Vehicle Code is the law that makes it illegal for a driver to operate a vehicle with a BAC level of .08% and higher. The law does not require a court to validate that the driver was indeed under the influence as long as their DUI test results show a BAC level of .08% or higher.
- Section 23152(c) of the state's Vehicle Code prohibits any driver that is addicted to alcohol or a particular type of drug to operate a vehicle
- Section 23152(d) of the state's Vehicle Code does not allow any commercial vehicle driver to operate a car with a BAC level of .04%
- California Vehicle Code 23152(e) makes it unlawful for any driver that is driving with a passenger to drive with a BAC level of .04% and higher
- Section 23152(f) of the state’s Vehicle Code prevents any driver from operating a vehicle while under the effect of drugs
- Section 23152(g) of the California Vehicle prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle while under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol
Most cases involving DUI are convicted as misdemeanors in California, but the courts might file felony charges against a driver if they caused an accident that resulted in physical injury, if they were facing four or more prior DUI convictions within a time limit of 10 years or if the driver had a prior felony DUI conviction on their record.
A first DUI conviction is punished with six months of jail time, a fine of a maximum of $1000 and driving license suspension for six months.
A second and third DUI conviction will be punished with a maximum of one year of jail time, a fine not exceeding $1000 and a driving license suspension of 2 or three years respectively.
A felony DUI is punished with a maximum of 16 years behind bars a fine that can go up to $5000 and up to five years of driving license suspension.
There are other penalties for DUI in the state, including a mandatory requirement to install an interlock ignition device system in the car and grave effects on one's career, higher insurance rates and difficulty in finding specific jobs among others.
California Hit and Run
Hit and Run laws are provided under Section VC 20002(a) of the CA Vehicle Code. Under this law, it is illegal for any driver to flee from the accident scene. Hit and Run happen when a motorist gets into a collision with another vehicle, a pedestrian, an animal, a static object or another person's property, and then leave the accident scene without identifying themselves or helping anyone that might have been injured.
The law specifies the duties of a driver once they are involved in a crash, which includes:
- Stopping the vehicle
- If possible, finding the owner of the car or property they have been involved in an accident with
- Exchanging information with the other people who have been in the same accident. The type of information needed in this case will be the driver's full names, addresses, license number, their car registration number, and their insurance details. This should be done even though the injured person was your passenger and whether or not they want to report that accident.
- If anyone has been injured in an accident, the driver must offer help
- If the driver is unable to locate the other driver, maybe their car was parked somewhere, he/she must leave behind a note with their name and address on it. The driver must also call and inform the police about the accident
A driver will not be charged with Hit and Run only if:
- The only property that had been damaged in that crash was their car, and no one else was involved in the accident
- The driver was seriously injured and had to seek immediate medical treatment
If a person is guilty of Hit and Run, they could face severe penalties such as hefty fines and many years of imprisonment, especially if the crash was serious and had resulted in physical injuries or property damage. Note that a Hit and Run in California is a wobbler. This means that an offender can either get a misdemeanor or felony. The common types of punishments a Hit and Run offender can get include:
- Heavy Fines
- Prison or jail sentence
- Revocation or Suspension of their driver’s license
- Higher insurance rates
- Possible cancellation of their insurance policy
A felony Hit and Run case involves fleeing the accident scene where a third party has been seriously injured. The third party, in this case can be a passenger in another vehicle or a pedestrian. A driver who gets a felony Hit and Run conviction may be required to pay hefty fines that range between $5000 and $20,000. In addition to that, or in the place of fines, they could face incarceration for up to 15 years in state prison. A misdemeanor is punished by a maximum of one year in jail and a maximum fine of $5000.
On top of that, a Hit and Run conviction will result in the suspension of your driving license for between six months and three years, or license revocation. The severity of these penalties calls for proper legal representation from an experienced attorney.
DUI Hit and Run
Whether or not you are driving while under the influence, the law mandates that you stop your car any time you get involved in an accident. If the accident involved another vehicle, a motorcyclist or a pedestrian, you must provide them with your details even if you are not at fault. You must also offer to help anyone that has been injured in that accident and then call the police. When this is done, you avoid facing two of the most serious charges in the state of California: DUI and Hit & Run. Otherwise, California Hit and Run offense that is accompanied by DUI is the most severely punished offenses in the state and can leave you serving time in prison for more than ten years.
DUI Hit and Run is a charge that, in general, could involve many other offenses such as DUI resulting in serious injuries or vehicular DUI. The offender will, for instance, face separate charges for DUI, Hit and Run, and additional charges depending on the severity of the accident and whether or not someone was injured or killed in the accident. These other charges could be DUI Hit and Run with bodily injury, reckless driving, or vehicular homicide. The additional charges and prior DUI convictions will attract more severe penalties if you are convicted.
Even when the seriousness of both DUI and Hit and Run crimes in the state is clear, many drivers have found themselves facing both charges. The main reason why this is so is that some drivers get too scared to stop when they cause an accident in their drunken or drugged state. No one wants to carry the burden of causing an accident in a drunken state, especially if the crash resulted in bodily injury or property damage. That is why some drivers flee the crash scene, hoping that they will not be caught and brought to justice.
Other drivers flee the accident scene because they do not have insurance coverage or for fear that their insurance rates may be increased. There are legal implications for not having car insurance. Again, an insurance company will increase your insurance rates if you were ever convicted of drunk driving.
Other drivers flee the accident scene because they were too intoxicated to realize that they caused an accident. Such drivers will still face the two charges of DUI and Hit and Run even though they were not aware of the accident. If found guilty of the two charges, they will face punishments for both DUI and Hit & Run.
Why is DUI with Hit and Run considered a serious offense?
The first reason why DUI with Hit and Run is a serious offense is the one provided above; that the law will separate the two offenses to give you a harsher penalty if you are convicted. Leaving the accident scene while drunk driving is enough to change your life significantly. The law believes that when a person flees the accident scene, and they are drunk driving, they can still cause more accidents, property damage, and injuries out there. A driver who is already drunk or under a drug’s influence will panic when they cause or get involved in an accident. It will not be easy for such a person to operate a vehicle in their panicky state. That is why it is important to stop at the accident scene to avoid causing another accident.
Again, if you caused an accident and fled, and then you cause another accident, you may face additional charges including additional years in jail, and be required to pay more money in restitution to cover up for the resulting damages.
Since the two charges are treated separately, the offender is required to serve the punishments consecutively and not concurrently. This means a longer time in jail, more fines, and other penalties such as revocation or suspension of the offender’s driver’s license.
When tried for DUI Hit and Run, the judge is, in most cases, at complete discretion to determine the most suitable punishment for both offenses, depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident. However, It is good to note that since the case will involve both DUI and Hit & Run, there will be a minimal chance that the punishment will be lenient. It would help to seek the best legal representation to have your charges reduced.
Penalties for DUI Hit and Run
As previously mentioned, DUI Hit and Run will carry punishments for two of the most severe crimes in the state. Thus, you can expect to face some or more of these penalties if you are convicted of the offense:
- Hefty fines ranging between $1,000 and $10,000
- Between 2 and four years of imprisonment in state prison if the accident resulted in injuries or death
- A maximum of one year in jail if the injuries sustained are minor
- Six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1000 if the accident only resulted in property damage. This will be convicted as a misdemeanor DUI and Hit and Run.
Note that you will only face these penalties if you are successfully convicted of both offenses.
DUI Hit and Run causing bodily injury
If no people were hurt during the Hit and Run accident, the offender would only face a misdemeanor conviction, unless if the DUI charge they are facing is the fourth one in a span of 10 years. If one or more people were hurt in the crash, the offense would be convicted as a felony; thus, it automatically becomes a violent crime.
Even though the offense was your first DUI, with no prior convictions over the last ten years, you will be given a four-year sentence to state prison and be required to pay penalties amounting to $10000. A DUI Hit and Run conviction that is a second, third, fourth, or subsequent conviction will attract heftier penalties.
Possible Defenses for DUI Hit and Run
In order to successfully convict you of a DUI Hit and Run, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were drunk driving, that you were involved in a crash, that you were well aware that an accident took place, and that you willingly failed to perform your legal duties as a driver in an accident scene. Proving all these may be a little difficult for the prosecutor especially when he/she is working against a smart DUI defense attorney. There are several possible strategies that your attorney can use to have some or all your charges reduced or dropped.
There was no property damage
Property damage is one of the elements that the prosecutor must prove to charge you of Hit and Run. Sometimes, only the car of the driver that is involved in the accident gets damaged. If that was the case, you will not be facing charges for Hit and Run, because the offense does not apply if it is only your car that was damaged. If there was no car or any other property that was injured in the accident, the charges for Hit and Run will not apply.
Only the defendant was injured in the accident
California Hit and Run will not be violated if only the driver of the car involved in the accident was injured. The law even allows a driver to leave the accident scene to get medical treatment in such a situation. If no one else was injured, then the judge will not find you guilty of the offense.
The driver was unaware that an accident occurred
It is possible for a person to get involved in an accident and not even realize it. The crime of Hit and Run consists of a driver intentionally fleeing the accident scene after causing or getting into an accident. If the driver was unaware that the accident occurred in the first place, they might not be guilty of the offense. However, if the crash resulted in significant damage, this defense may not be acceptable.
The driver did not cause the accident
If your car is involved in a Hit and Run situation, the police will arrest and charge you with the offense even though you were not the one driving it at the time of the accident. A smart attorney may be able to convince the court that someone else other than their client was driving the car at the time of the accident. If this works, you will not be liable for the accident, and all the additional charges against you may be dropped.
Find San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm Near Me
DUI Hit and Run is the kind of offense that can drastically change your life in one minute. If you or your loved are facing such charges, it is crucial to have an attorney to advise, represent, and guide you through the court processes. San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm has a team of the best DUI defense attorneys in the county that are willing and ready to take up your case. Call us at 408-777-6630 today.