Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
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In California, there are specific penalties that may be imposed for a hit and run accident with damage to property only. Also, the court may take action upon your license.
Specifically, the pertinent section of the motor vehicle states:
20002. (a) 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. Moving the vehicle in accordance with this subdivision does not affect the question of fault. The driver shall also immediately do either of the following:
(1) Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of that property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle involved and, upon locating the driver of any other vehicle involved or the owner or person in charge of any damaged property, upon being requested, present his or her driver's license, and vehicle registration, to the other driver, property owner, or person in charge of that property. The information presented shall include the current residence address of the driver and of the registered owner. If the registered owner of an involved vehicle is present at the scene, he or she shall also, upon request, present his or her driver's license information, if available, or other valid identification to the other involved parties.
(2) Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof and shall without unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision occurred or, if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.
(b) Any person who parks a vehicle which, prior to the vehicle again being driven, becomes a runaway vehicle and is involved in an accident resulting in damage to any property, attended or unattended, shall comply with the requirements of this section relating to notification and reporting and shall, upon conviction thereof, be liable to the penalties of this section for failure to comply with the requirements.
(c) Any person failing to comply with all the requirements of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.
Further, with respect to your drivers license, the pertinent section of the motor vehicle code states:
13201. A court may suspend, for not more than six months, the privilege of a person to operate a motor vehicle upon conviction of any of the following offenses:
(a) Failure of the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident to stop or otherwise comply with Section 20002. (cited above)
(2) In lieu of suspending a person's driving privilege pursuant to paragraph (1), the court may order the privilege to operate a motor vehicle restricted to necessary travel to and from that person's place of employment for not more than six months. If driving a motor vehicle is necessary to perform the duties of the person's employment, the court may restrict the driving privilege to allow driving in that person's scope of employment. Whenever a person's driving privilege is restricted pursuant to this paragraph, the person shall be required to maintain proof of financial responsibility.
If you have not been ticketed, the honest course of action, to avoid any further problems, would be to report the accident at the police station nearest to where the accident happened. The owner of the vehicle that you hit may have already made a report.
You may also take your chances and do nothing. This is your choice. I can't ethically tell you to do that.
If you are ticketed for the accident or a hit and run, make sure to either make a court date or look at your ticket to see if there is a court date on it. If you appear, and the owner of the vehicle doesn't you can ask that the ticket be dismissed.
Further, if the owner does appear, you may want to speak to the prosecutor about having the violation deferred (depending on your driving record) so that if you have no other problems, at the end of a period of time, the ticket would be dismissed.
If the owner does appear, you may want to make sure that the owner can HONESTLY testify that the damage caused to his/her vehicle was caused by YOUR car. eg; paint the same? damage to your car consistent with damage to his/her car?
Finally, you may with to speak with an attorney who specializes in traffic law. You can contact your local bar association for a referral. It will probably give you 2 or 3 names. You can contact the attorney(s) for a consultation by phone, or ask to set up an appointment to discuss the specific facts of your case. Sometimes the consultations are free.
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