Peter Blair | June 23, 2022 | Criminal Defense
Most car accidents result in traffic tickets and insurance claims. When an accident victim files a personal injury lawsuit, the case is handled in civil court. The at-fault driver faces civil penaltcriminal charies in the form of a judgment for monetary damages.
However, there are situations where you can face criminal charges after an accident. Five common scenarios that make a car accident criminal are:
California Vehicle Code §23152 makes it illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) above the legal limit. It is also a crime to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
If a driver causes a DUI accident, the driver could be responsible for damages if someone is injured or killed. The driver could also face jail time, fines, DUI probation, driver’s license suspension, DUI school, and other criminal penalties for a DUI conviction.
Reckless Driving Causing Injury
If you cause a car accident because of reckless driving, you can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. A conviction for reckless driving causing injury is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Reckless driving is defined as intentionally operating a motor vehicle with a “wanton disregard” for the safety of other people or property.
Fleeing the Scene of an Accident
Drivers involved in a car accident must stop at the scene and remain at the scene until they fulfill their legal duties. California Vehicle Code §20002a makes it illegal for a person involved in an accident causing property damage only to leave the scene.
After an accident involving property damage only, you must:
- Stop at the nearest safe location
- Locate the owner of the vehicle or property
- Give the other party your driver’s license and registration, if requested
- Provide your current address and the address of the vehicle’s owner
- Leave a note in a conspicuous place with your name and contact information if you cannot locate the owner
Misdemeanor hit-and-run charges can result in up to six months in jail. The court might also impose a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, you could be ordered to pay restitution to the property owner.
Felony Hit and Run With Injury
California Vehicle Code §20001 requires drivers to stop and remain at the accident scene if they cause a crash that results in injury or death. If the driver leaves the accident scene, they can be charged with a felony offense.
The state must prove that you caused an accident that resulted in injury or death and that you knew or should have reasonably known you had been involved in a car accident but willfully failed to stop. A conviction for felony hit and run causing injury can result in up to four years in state prison. The court may also impose a fine of up to $10,000 and other criminal penalties.
California Penal Code §192 defines vehicular manslaughter as unlawfully or negligently operating a vehicle, causing a person’s death. The penalties for vehicular manslaughter depend on whether you acted with ordinary negligence or gross negligence.
The punishment for misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is up to one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, you could serve up to six years in state prison.
Vehicular manslaughter with ordinary negligence is a misdemeanor. The punishment is up to one year in county jail.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter While Intoxicated
California Penal Code §191.5 makes it a crime to cause someone’s death while driving under the influence and with gross negligence. The person must be drunk, AND they must commit a separate infraction, misdemeanor, or otherwise lawful act that could cause a person’s death. For example, a drunk person drives 100 mph and causes an accident.
The charge is a felony offense. The punishment for a conviction is four, six, or ten years in state prison. The court may also impose a fine of up to $10,000 and formal probation.
The sentence could increase based on your criminal record. For example, a repeat offender could be sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.
Get Legal Help If You Are Facing Criminal Charges After a San Diego Car Accident
Car accident cases can involve complicated civil and criminal laws. Therefore, it is wise to seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer in California as soon as possible after the accident. An experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer can review the case and explain your rights. They can work to protect your freedom and reputation.
If you’re facing charges for domestic violence, drug crimes, or any kind of criminal charges, call Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers at (619) 825-1535 or contact us online today.