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Jail time is possible for drivers who hit a parked car and leave the scene. Many states make hit-and-run a misdemeanor if there was any property damage. Misdemeanors can carry up to a year in jail. In California, drivers who hit a parked car and flee the scene face up to 6 months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Yes, fleeing the scene of an accident that causes property damage to the other car is a crime. In most states, it is called a hit-and-run. There do not have to be any injuries for the accident to be a hit-and-run.
In California, prosecutors have to prove that:
All criminal offenses, even low-level misdemeanors, come with the potential for jail time. Judges, however, may sentence the defendant to probation, instead.
In California, the crime of hit-and-run only covers accidents that damage the other vehicle. If the only vehicle to be damaged was the one that left the scene, it is not a crime.
However, drivers who hit a parked car should take pictures of the unattended vehicle to prove that it was not damaged. These pictures can be used as evidence if the driver is accused of committing a hit-and-run.
Usually, it is only a felony if there was an injury.
The criminal laws in each state are unique. However, most treat the crime of hit-and-run the same way that California does.
In California, there are 2 types of hit-and-run crimes:
The difference between the 2 is whether there was a bodily injury or not. If there was a bodily injury or a fatality, it is a felony in California. If there were no personal injuries, it is a misdemeanor.
If the accident was with a parked car, there are unlikely to be any injuries. Hitting a parked car and then fleeing the scene will generally be a misdemeanor, then.
Just because it is a lower level of criminal offense, though, does not mean that jail time is not a possibility. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction still include the potential for jail time. Only infractions do not carry the possibility of jail time for a conviction.
Hitting a parked car and leaving the scene without causing an injury will generally be a misdemeanor. In California, misdemeanor hit-and-run offenses carry up to:
In many cases, the judge will put the defendant on probation in lieu of jail time. The defendant will have to comply with the terms and conditions of his or her probation. Violating any of these rules can lead to probation being revoked. If probation is revoked, the defendant may have to serve the remainder of his or her sentence in jail.
Following a hit-and-run involving a parked car, some common terms of probation include:
Having a skilled criminal defense attorney from a local law firm can be the best way to ensure that you are sentenced to probation, rather than jail time.
In California, if the defendant is able to fully compensate the victim for their damages, the court may dismiss the criminal hit-and-run charge. This can happen through a Penal Code 1377 civil compromise. Civil compromises like these are only available for misdemeanor offenses, though. So long as no one was hurt in the accident involving a parked car, a civil compromise can be an option.
After committing a hit-and-run accident, drivers frequently find that their car insurance premiums will increase. Auto insurance companies see hit-and-run accidents as a sign that the driver is a risk. They use this increased risk to justify charging the driver higher insurance rates.
Drivers who hit a parked car should:
If the vehicle is unattended and the owner is not around, drivers should leave a note in a conspicuous place for the owner. The note should describe what happened and include the driver’s contact information and address.
If someone hits your parked vehicle and leaves without providing their contact or insurance information, you will have to rely on your own insurance company for compensation. Victims who do not have collision coverage will have to pay out of their own pocket.
The claims process begins by filing an insurance claim with your insurer. An adjuster from your insurance provider will look at the damage and estimate the costs of repairing the damage. If the accident falls within the terms of the collision insurance coverage in your insurance policy, the company will cover the costs because it was not your fault. This is subject to the policy’s deductible, though.
Uninsured car owners will have to find the hit and run driver. Only when the driver is found can their liability coverage be used to cover the costs of the damage. These vehicle owners usually have to call the police and file a police report to trigger an investigation. Security cameras can be a valuable tool if the accident happened in a parking lot or a busy street. If they recorded the vehicle’s license plate number, that can be used to identify the hit and run driver. Once identified, a claim can be filed against their insurance company.
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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