Vehicle Code 20002 VC - Misdemeanor "Hit and Run" in California


Vehicle Code 20002 VC
is the California statute that defines the crime of misdemeanor hit and run. This section makes it a crime for a person to fail to stop his or her vehicle, after being involved in an accident, when the accident resulted in some type of property damage.

While this statute sets forth the law regarding misdemeanor hit and run, VC 20001 sets forth the California law on felony hit and run.

According to 20002 VC:

“The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists.”

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • Kelly collides with another motorist, and while the collision clearly causes damage to the other car, Kelly purposely drives away from the scene.
  • Nia is driving while intoxicated and rams her car into her neighbor's mailbox, but rather than stop, she drives away with her lights off and sneaks into her garage.
  • Juanita rear-ends another vehicle in traffic and then drives to the shoulder of the road and speeds away.

Defenses

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of a crime under Vehicle Code 20002. These include showing that:

Penalties

A violation of VC 20002 is charged as a misdemeanor in California (as opposed to a felony or an infraction).

The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary probation).

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

Head on car crash

1. What is prohibited under California Vehicle Code 20002 VC?

Vehicle Code 20002 VC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to fail to stop his vehicle, after being involved in an accident, when the accident resulted in some type of property damage.1

A prosecutor must prove four things in order to successfully convict a person of misdemeanor hit and run. These are:

  1. while driving, the defendant was involved in a vehicle accident,
  2. the accident caused damage to someone else's property,
  3. the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that he had been involved in an accident that caused property damage, and
  4. the defendant willfully failed to stop at the scene of the accident or failed to provide the owner of the damaged property with his identifying information (e.g., his name and current address).2

Someone commits an act “willfully” when he does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.3

In providing identifying information, an accused must have provided enough information so that the owner of the damaged property understood the accused was driving the vehicle.4

Note that a driver's duty to stop applies no matter what party or driver caused the accident.5

Also note that this duty applies even if an accident occurred on private property (e.g., as in the case of a motorist driving through a homeowner's fence).6

Property damage under this statute does include any damage to a dog or other pet.7

Finally, California courts recently stated that civil compromises can no longer be used in misdemeanor hit and run cases.8

2. Are there legal defenses to accusations of violating VC 20002?

If a person is accused of a crime under this statute, then he can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed.

Three common defenses to VC 20002 accusations are:

  1. no property damage,
  2. falsely accused, and/or
  3. unlawful search and seizure.

2.1. No property damage

Recall that an accused is only guilty under VC 20002 if he failed to stop after an auto accident caused some type of property damage. This means it is always a solid legal defense for a defendant to show that, while he may have sped off after an accident, no property damage was involved. It is also a defense for a defendant to show that, while his own car may have been damaged, no other property was hurt.

2.2. Falsely accused

Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for people to get prosecuted based on false allegations. People get falsely accused out of

  • jealousy,
  • revenge, and
  • anger.

Thus, it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that a party falsely accused him of violating Vehicle Code 20002.

2.3. Unlawful search and seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that we have the right to be free from unreasonable “searches and seizures” by law enforcement. If authorities obtain evidence from an unreasonable, or unlawful search and seizure, then that evidence can get excluded from a criminal case. This means that any charges in the case could get reduced or even dismissed.

man behind bars

3. Penalties, punishment, and sentencing

A violation of this statute is charged as a misdemeanor in California.9

The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.10

Please note that in lieu of jail time, a judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary probation).

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to misdemeanor hit and run. These are:

  1. felony hit and run – VC 20001,
  2. driving under the influence – VC 23152a, and
  3. driving without a license – VC 12500a.

4.1. Felony hit and run – VC 20001

Vehicle Code 20001 VC is the California law that defines the crime of felony hit and run.

This section makes it a felony for a driver to flee the scene of an accident when another person was injured or killed.11

Although the law is called "felony" hit and run, a violation of VC 20001 is a wobbler offense. This means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.12

If charged as a misdemeanor, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.13

If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by up to three years in state prison.14

4.2. Driving under the influence – VC 23152a

Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC is the California DUI law that makes it a crime for a person to operate a motor vehicle while "under the influence" of alcohol.15

"Under the influence" means that a driver's physical or mental abilities are impaired to the extent that he can no longer drive as well as a cautious sober person.16

In California, motorists can be prosecuted under this statute even if their blood alcohol concentration was below 0.08%.

A first, second and third offense under VC 23152a is charged as misdemeanors in California. Penalties for a DUI conviction may include:

4.3. Driving without a license – VC 12500a

Vehicle Code 12500(a) VC makes it unlawful for a person to drive in California without a valid driver's license.17

Note that the driver's license does not have to be from California. It can be from any jurisdiction as long as:

  • it was issued by the state or country in which the driver resides, and
  • it is currently valid for the type of vehicle the driver is driving.

Driving without a valid license is a California “wobblette” offense. This means it can be charged as either a California misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction.18

As an infraction, driving without a license carries a potential fine of up to $250.19

But if charged as a misdemeanor, VC 12500a can be punished by:

  • up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.20

Were you accused of misdemeanor hit and run in California? Call us for help…

criminal defense attorneys
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Vehicle Code 20002 VC, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For hit and run accusations in Colorado, please see our article on: “Colorado Hit-and-Run / Leaving the Scene of an Accident (42-4-1601 & 42-4-1602 C.R.S.).

And, for hit and run accusations in Nevada, please see our article on: “Hit and Run Laws in Nevada (NRS 484E.010), Explained by Las Vegas DUI Defense Attorneys.”


Legal References:

  1. California Vehicle Code 20002 VC. This code section states: “The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to any property, including vehicles, shall immediately stop the vehicle at the nearest location that will not impede traffic or otherwise jeopardize the safety of other motorists.”

  2. CALCRIM No. 2150. Failure to Perform Duty Following Accident/Property Damage—Defendant Driver (Veh. Code, § 20002). See also People v. Carbajal (1995), 10 Cal.4th 1114.

  3. See same.

  4. People v. Kroncke (1999), 70 Cal.App.4th 1535.

  5. People v. Scofield (1928) 203 Cal. 703.

  6. People v. Stansberry (1966) 242 Cal.App.2d 199.

  7. People v. Fimbres (1930), 288 P. 19.

  8. People v. Dimacali (2019), 32 Cal. App. 5th 822.

  9. California Vehicle Code 20002c.

  10. See same.

  11. California Vehicle Code 20001.

  12. See same.

  13. See same

  14. See same.

  15. California Vehicle Code 23152a.

  16. California Vehicle Code 23152.

  17. California Vehicle Code 12500a.

  18. California Vehicle Code 40000.11.

  19. California Penal Code 19.8.

  20. California Penal Code 19.

Free attorney consultations...

The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370