Unfortunately, hit and run accidents happen in the state of California more often than most people realize. If you hit someone and leave the scene, you may think you “got away with it” if you aren’t found right away. However, you don’t know that prosecutors can charge you with this crime one to three years after the incident occurred.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations in a Hit and Run Case
If it’s a misdemeanor situation, the offender usually must be charged within one year. You must be charged within three years for a felony hit and run case.
In most areas, the prosecutor will decide if you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony based on the situation. Usually, crimes are charged as misdemeanors if only property damage occurred, while felonies are reserved for accidents that caused:
- Serious property damage
- Bodily injuries to a person
The amount of time a prosecutor has to charge you with a crime is called the statute of limitations. It is the maximum amount of time they have, and if this amount of time passes, no charges can be filed.
What Is a Hit and Run Accident?
Drivers will be charged with a hit and run if they hit something (another vehicle, pedestrian, stationery item, or bicycle) and if they leave the scene without giving their information or making sure medical assistance is not needed.
Most state laws require that a driver give the following information to the person hit or the police after they are involved in an accident:
- Contact information
- Vehicle registration and driver’s license
- Vehicle owner information if the person does not own the vehicle involved in the accident
- Insurance information
- License plate number
Suppose you happen to hit or cause damage to an unattended vehicle. In that case, they should leave a note in an obvious location with their contact information and explain what happened.
It’s also worth mentioning that a person may be guilty of a hit and run accident even if they were not at fault for it. For example, if someone was hit by a driver who was intoxicated and the person leaves the scene, they may face hit and run charges.
Along with potential criminal charges, you may also have a civil lawsuit filed against you or penalties imposed by the DMV for your state if you commit a hit and run.
Hire an Attorney for Help with Your Hit and Run Case
Even if you are not charged with a crime right away, you may still face hit and run charges at some point. If you find yourself in this situation, hiring a criminal lawyer for assistance is a good idea. They can provide advice and guidance about your case and help you build a defense to reduce the potential consequences you face. Having legal representation is the best way to handle any hit and run charge and protect your own rights in the legal process.