California Hit and Run Car Accident Laws
Most (if not all) states in the United States have a criminal statute which punishes a driver who leaves the scene of an injury-causing a car accident that he has been involved in.
These statutes are usually referred to by the generic name of "hit and run." In California, Vehicle Code section 20001 establishes the duty of a driver to stop, and sections 20002 and 20003 require that driver to provide the other driver and any injured person identifying and insurance information and to provide an injured person reasonable assistance to care for his injuries, including but not limited to providing transportation to a hospital or other appropriate health care provider.
Finally, under section 20004, if the car accident results in the death of a person, the driver must report the car accident to the nearest office of the California Highway Patrol or city police department, if no peace officer is at the scene of the accident.
Not all "hit and run" accidents involve a car collision. There are times when the driver of one car will swerve dangerously or otherwise make a movement which causes another driver to react, triggering an accident which does not involve the first car. The first driver usually is unaware that his conduct has caused a car accident. There are many police reports in which the blame for the car accident is attributed, at least in part, to a "phantom vehicle."
Duty to Stop at Scene of Accident 20001.
(a) The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 and 20004.
(b) (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
(2) If the accident described in subdivision (a) results in death or permanent, serious injury, a person who violates subdivision (a) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph.
(3) In imposing the minimum fine required by this subdivision, the court shall take into consideration the defendant's ability to pay the fine and, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce the amount of that minimum fine to less than the amount otherwise required by this subdivision.
(c) A person who flees the scene of the crime after committing a violation of Section 191.5 of, or paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 192 of the Penal Code, upon conviction of any of those sections, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made pursuant to this subdivision.
(d) As used in this section, "permanent, serious injury" means the loss or permanent impairment of function of a bodily member or organ.
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