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Difference Between A Misdemeanor and Felony Hit & Run in California

The difference in these hit and run cases, whether they're misdemeanors under California Vehicle Code 20002, or felonies under California Vehicle Code 20001, has to do with the injury. Obviously, he worse the injury, the more likely they're going to charge it as a felony. This whole injury thing is not really a perfectly-definitive thing. In other words, sometimes someone can claim they have a soft tissue injury related to a hit and run case in Los Angeles, and that's only going to be charged as a misdemeanor, and it only should be charged as a misdemeanor because it's not a true serious injury.

Felony DUI

Whereas, other times if somebody is seriously hurt like a broken arm or some other bad injury and the individual leaves the scene of the crime, then they can charge that as a felony DUI. These hit and run cases are strange because you can just do some negligent conduct that would never be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor — not even a crime — but as soon as you leave that's when the crime comes in. The police behind that is, if you cause an accident or if you're involved in an accident, you have a responsibility to try to help the other party.

Sometimes we have felony hit and run in Los Angeles that resulted in death. You have to render aid. You have to call 9-1-1 and get an ambulance out there if you're involved in a hit and run accident and somebody gets seriously injured.


Another thing that comes up is people have warrants for hit and run cases and they don't know whether it's a felony or a misdemeanor. A lot of times I can figure that out with a phone call. I've got connections in a lot of the local courthouses, so I can find out if the case is a felony or a misdemeanor hit and run which is a big difference, because in a felony hit and run you're looking at potential prison time. Whereas with a misdemeanor hit and run, especially if you have no record — you're probably going to end up with any jail time if the case is handled the right way.

You probably want to turn yourself in with your attorney if you have a hit and run, whether it be a felony or a misdemeanor. You can bet your bottom dollar that if the police catch you and bring you into court and now you go in front of a judge, it's going to be a lot more difficult to avoid that jail time because the judge is going to think, this person would have never come in and dealt with their case except for the fact that the police caught them, so maybe they do deserve to be punished with jail or prison depending on what happened.

Paying for Damages

Another big thing also if you get into a hit and run accident, is whether or not you can make the victim whole. In other words, can you pay them for the damages to their vehicle, help them with their injury. Did you have insurance at the time? Did you have a valid license at the time? These are all things the prosecutors are looking at when they are deciding what to charge, what the person is ultimately going to plead to and whether or not they're going to seek jail or prison related to the case.

So, the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor hit and run really has to do with the severity of the situation, whether somebody was hurt and they're also going to look at — in those borderline cases — whether you have a criminal record. If you have a bad driving record and you get a hit and run, obviously it's more likely they're going to be harsh on you and want a felony versus a misdemeanor.

Whereas, if you have a clean record, you made a mistake and panicked and you left the scene, that certainly gives you a fighting chance to not only avoid a felony but maybe even avoid a misdemeanor. Maybe you can get some sort of a civil compromise or a diversionary program. This is something you have to discuss with a seasoned attorney who defends a lot of hit and run cases in Los Angeles County.

Contact our Law Firm for Help

So, hopefully this article has been helpful in giving you a feel for the difference between when a hit and run is going to be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony, and some of the things that you can do to help your attorney help you. A lot of times we get character letters. We make sure that our insurance company covers the accident, and we really try to make sure that we help the other party — make them whole — and then we're in a much stronger position to argue for a resolution that does not involve a felony and does not involve jail time. It gives you a chance maybe to earn a misdemeanor and maybe even earn a dismissal in your hit and run matter in Los Angeles.

For more information on Felony/Misdemeanor Hit & Run Charges In LA, a free initial consultation is your best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0979 today.