Fleeing an Accident Scene for Safety Reasons

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jul 08, 2009 | 0 Comments

California hit & run law requires a person involved in an accident to stop and provide identifying information to the other parties. Failure to do so may invite a felony charge under Vehicle Code 20001 if the accident caused injuries, or a misdemeanor charge under Vehicle Code 20002 if there was only property damage.

An increasingly common issue involves people who fail to stop because of safety concerns. For example, the driver may strike a pedestrian and then see an angry mob form. Or the driver may get in a fender-bender, but see that the other party is irate and potentially violent. Is it okay to flee the scene of the accident in these cases?

Technically, California hit & run law offers no exception for this situation. But practically speaking, prosecutors have discretion as to which cases they file. Typically they will look to see if the fleeing driver made some alternative way of reporting the accident. For example, suppose the driver immediately calls the police to report the accident and ask that an officer meet her at the scene. She then returns to the scene once police arrive. In a case like this, prosecutors are unlikely to file criminal hit & run charges. (Also refer to our article, "Five things NEVER to do if you are pulled over.")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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