Is My Los Angeles Hit and Run a Felony or Misdemeanor?

If you have been arrested or cited for a Hit and Run in Los Angeles, it  can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Which charge it is will depend on the facts of the case. Prosecutors review the officer’s statements, witness statements and the evidence to make a determination.

A Los Angeles hit and run is charged under California Vehicle Code § 20002, 20003, and 20004. If there is damage to property, it will be charged under California Vehicle Code §20002. If there is injury to person it will be charged under California Vehicle Code §20003, and if there is death it will be charged under California Vehicle code §20004.

Whether it will be charged as a felony or misdemeanor under each statute will depend on how bad the damage to property is and how bad the injury is.

Let’s consider some examples:

David is driving home early in the morning. It is extremely foggy and he is not able to see anything. He pulls over to wait for the fog to pass, but doesn’t see the car parked along the road and he rear ends it as he pulls over. The back bumper gets slightly dented. David will likely be charged under California Vehicle Code §20002, as a misdemeanor because the damage was minimal and easily fixed.

Let’s now say that instead of hitting the car’s bumper, David is going 80 mph and swerves to avoid hitting the car in front of him in the fog. In doing so he hits a parked car and completely totals the car pushing the car forward a significant distance. This would also be charged under California Vehicle Code §20002, but would be charged as a felony.

Not let’s say that David is driving down the same foggy highway and decides to pull over abruptly. He ends up hitting a jogger is running alongside the road. The jogger sees the car and tries to get out of the way and David luckily slams on the brakes right as his hood touches the person. The jogger suffers from minor injuries, bruises and scratches. David will likely be charged under California Vehicle Code §20003, as a misdemeanor.

Now if David had caused more significant injuries to the jogger, such as broken leg, fractured spine, or even death, David would be facing felony charges.

Whether a charge is a misdemeanor or a felony is very subjective. It is in the hands of the prosecutors to make a determination based on the facts. The legislation does not provide specific guidelines. This can be a good and bad thing. It is bad because this gives prosecutors a wide range to charge offenses as felonies instead of misdemeanors. It is good, however, because it also gives an experienced Los Angeles Hit and Run lawyer the room to argue that the charge should be reduced. If you are facing an offense that could be reduced, make sure you hire a knowledgeable expert in the field to give yourself the best possible changes of a reduction or dismissal!