Drivers in Santa Barbara have a legal duty to stop after a car accident and render reasonable assistance to others involved. California's hit-and-run laws are intended to prevent drivers from fleeing an accident scene before they stop, provide identifying information, and offer help to anyone injured in an accident.
These laws are enforced no matter who is liable for the crash, the damage's scope, or how minimal injuries are. A Santa Barbara hit-and-run lawyer at the Aron Law Firm may explain the distinctions between hit-and-run laws and how they may pertain to your situation. If you're charged with a hit-and-run in the Santa Barbara area, contact the Aron Law Firm for a robust defense to challenge the criminal allegations you may face.
Hit-and-Runs Under California Vehicle Code
Being involved in an accident does not automatically implicate you in a criminal offense. However, if you fail to stop, identify yourself, or offer help per California's hit-and-run laws, you may be charged with a criminal offense. Hit-and-run laws are defined under California Vehicle Code 20002, which requires a driver to do the following after a collision:
- Stop your vehicle without delay
- Provide your contact information
- Present your driver's license and vehicle registration information, if requested
- Give a statement of the crash to the California Highway Patrol or local police department of the city where the crash occurred
If the owner of the vehicle you hit was not present, you are legally required to leave a note with this contact information. Fleeing the scene without leaving a note and contacting the police may result in a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge, necessitating a Santa Barbara hit-and-run lawyer's legal aid.
Further, you must provide appropriate aid to anyone hurt in an accident. Contact emergency personnel so anyone injured receives medical care. Any driver who fails to follow these steps after a collision may be accused of a criminal hit-and-run charge.
What Are the Penalties for Hit-and-Runs in Santa Barbara?
Criminal penalties for hit-and-runs differ depending on the severity of the wreck and the amount of property damage or personal injuries sustained. In California, a hit-and-run charge is considered a “wobbler,” meaning prosecution may charge this crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. If no injuries were involved in your hit-and-run accident, you may be charged with a misdemeanor.
Penalties for a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge in Santa Barbara may include:
- Up to six months in jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Two points assessed on your driver's license
If the accident led to fatalities or injuries to individuals other than yourself, you may be charged with a felony hit-and-run. If you are accused of this charge, you may face the following consequences:
- Up to four years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Two points assessed on your driver's license
Leaving the scene of an accident may additionally result in a revocation of your driver's license. Aggravating factors to hit-and-run penalties include driving while intoxicated or driving without a valid license.
Often, insurance companies do not cover damages from a hit-and-run accident. Should the injured party file a lawsuit against you for a hit-and-run, you may have to pay for civil damages awarded to the plaintiff out of pocket.
How Can a Santa Barbara Hit-and-Run Lawyer Help?
For the prosecution to garner a conviction of a hit-and-run, they must prove that you intentionally fled the scene of the accident despite knowing you caused damage or injury. As a result, hit-and-run defense lawyers at the Aron Law Firm may utilize the following defense strategies against hit-and-run charges in Santa Barbara:
- Lack of knowledge: If you did not realize you hit another vehicle, you might not be held liable.
- Only your property was damaged: If the only damage was to your own vehicle, you might argue that stopping to identify yourself is not required under California law.
- You were not driving: Passengers are not charged for hit-and-runs. If you were not the driver, you would not be charged.
- Mistaken identity: If your car was stolen by another individual involved in the accident, you would not be charged for the crime.
Trusted Santa Barbara Hit-and-Run Lawyers
The penalties for hit-and-runs may be severe in Santa Barbara. If you have been accused of a hit-and-run in Santa Barbara, contact the Aron Law Firm to understand your legal rights and potential defense approaches.
Aron Law Firm is led by William Aron, whose previous experience includes serving as Deputy District Attorney in the Bay Area. He and his team advocate for their clients to achieve the most favorable outcome for their unique situation. To speak with an experienced hit-and-run lawyer about your situation, schedule a free and confidential case review by calling (805) 618-1768 or completing a contact form.