This is good question because a lot of people get themselves involved in hit-and-run cases and they're worried about what's going to happen to them and there's really not that many answers out there. Obviously, it depends on the circumstances of your hit-and-run as far as how it's going to be investigated.
Hit and Run Causing Death
Starting with the most serious hit-and-run cases where people are killed on the highway or there's some horrible injury and the person either leaves their vehicle there or just drives away from the scene of the accident, if the police can get any information about that particular person in that particular scenario, they're going to start looking for them immediately.
For example, if they get a license plate they'll be able to track that license plate back to an address. They'll go to that address. Any lead they get when somebody's been killed or if there's a serious accident on the highway, the police will pull out all the stops to try to get their hands on the person that was involved in that particular hit-and-run accident.
I've represented a lot of people in these cases and it's impressive what the police can do through various techniques to find a person that seriously injured somebody and then left the scene of the accident- in addition to be charged with a felony hit and run with injury under California Vehicle Code 20001,
If on the other hand, there is only property damage related to a hit-and-run accident — especially in Los Angeles county — the police are not as vigilant in dealing with those particular cases. In other words, they have so many of those cases.
If it's only property damage, usually that case will get assigned to a detective who has jurisdiction over a particular location. Once the detective gets around to it, they'll probably send a letter out to the individual that was supposedly involved in it depending on what evidence they have, and then they will try to contact that person and see if they can get them to admit that they were involved in a hit-and-run accident.
Then they will pass the case along to the City Attorney or District Attorney, depending on who has jurisdiction over that particular case and let them deal with it.
One of their biggest techniques as far as hit-and-run cases go involving property damage or otherwise, is if the person leaves their vehicle at the scene, the police will impound that vehicle and they will put a hold on the vehicle so that the individual cannot get the vehicle out until they talked to the particular police officer, so that makes it very difficult because now the person's vehicle is trapped in an impound lot with an evidence hold on it and now you can't get it.
A lot of times people don't own their own vehicles and you don't want to just leave it there anyway, so you'd be paying money for a vehicle that you can't get out of the storage impound. So, in that scenario what you should do is hire an attorney, let the attorney deal with the police officer in figuring out how to get your vehicle out.
I've had situations where sometimes I will go in there with my client and give a statement because it makes sense under the circumstances and it's really not going to incriminate you anymore than you already incriminated yourself and it shows cooperation and you can get the vehicle out immediately upon giving the statement.
Other times, I've actually given the statement for the client. I will talk to them. I will type up the statement and give it to the police officer so we can get the car out and then other times, I have just told them we're not going to make any statements. Just let us know when the car is available when you're done with your evidence hold on it so we can get it out.
That will usually cost the person some money because the storage fees rack up and they don't get to use their vehicle. But sometimes we don't want to meet with the police because we don't want to give them any information that might cause them to be able to prosecute you for a hit-and-run accident.
Depends on Severity of the Accident
The step-by-step on hit-and-run accidents, as you can see, kind of depends on how severe the accident was – whether a misdemeanor or felony – if somebody was hurt, and obviously the jurisdiction as well and how busy that jurisdiction is. The consequences of a hit and run can be severe.
But you're always best served by getting an attorney involved at the earliest possible stage so the attorney can help you make the right decisions as far as how you're going to deal with the hit-and-run case and get it dealt with the right way so that you don't make any moves that put you in jeopardy of getting arrested and prosecuted, where if you would've just done nothing, you could have avoided that.