Is a Hit and Run a Felony?

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Jul 18, 2021

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What You Should Know

  • Leaving an accident without speaking to the other party could result in serious consequences and legal ramifications
  • In most cases, a minor hit and run will result in misdemeanor charges being filed
  • Always carry auto insurance so you know that you’re financially protected 

If you ever get in an accident, you should never flee the scene. 

Naturally, a traumatic event like a serious car accident may cause your fight-or-flight instincts to kick in. But, should you find yourself in such a situation, try to ignore those impulses, remain calm, and stay in the area. Leaving an accident without speaking to the other party could result in serious consequences and legal ramifications down the road. 

To that end, is a hit and run a felony? 

The answer to that is: it depends

This guide will review the circumstances and potential penalties for a hit and run. 

What is a Hit and Run? 

A hit and run offense occurs when you get into a car accident and then leave the scene without identifying yourself or providing necessary aid. 

This circumstance isn’t limited to a vehicle-on-vehicle crash. It can also apply to a vehicle-on-pedestrian, or vehicle-on-property, such as an accident with a parked car. Some states even include animals in the definition. Hit and runs can also affect your insurance premium, so make sure to ask your provider this question: “How much does insurance go up after an accident?” 

An accident doesn’t necessarily have to be your fault for a hit and run to happen. In most cases, the at-fault driver will be charged for fleeing the scene.

Tracking the driver in a hit and run accident, however, doesn’t always happen. And in those cases, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that the victims may be the ones who end up shouldering the repair costs.

Hit and runs are fairly common occurrences throughout the country. According to AAA:1

“The current analysis found that both the rates of hit-and-run crashes and fatalities are increasing. There were an estimated 737,100 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 (NHTSA, 2016). This translates to a hit-and-run crash happening somewhere in the U.S. every 43 seconds.”

To be convicted of a hit and run, the prosecution needs to prove the following:

  • You were in an accident while driving
  • The accident damaged another person’s property or injured the person
  • You were aware that you were in the accident that caused damage
  • You knowingly failed to stop at the scene immediately after, or didn’t provide the owner with your contact information 

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Is a Hit and Run a Misdemeanor or Felony?

The answer to this depends on the state and the seriousness of the accident, since it’s often viewed as a circumstantial crime. 

Typically, a hit and run is considered as a misdemeanor if the following circumstances occur: 

  • You hit a car or object, caused damage to either, and then left.
  • Another driver caused a minor accident and you left before exchanging your information or stopping.
  • You caused an accident with a person, animal, or object and then left the scene. 

In most cases, a minor hit and run—meaning no serious injuries or death—will result in misdemeanor charges being filed. But what about a felony charge? 

A felony is often limited to more serious accidents in terms of total damages or grievous bodily harm. 

What Are The Penalties for a Hit and Run Felony? 

What are the typical car accident settlement amounts for an accident like this? This depends on the state and circumstances of the accident. Consider you’re in California, and the hit-and-run resulted in minor property damage and bodily injury. In that case, California Vehicle Code §200022 would apply. This carries: 

  • A maximum penalty of less than 6 months imprisonment in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

And what if this situation had resulted in significant property damage and bodily injury. In that case, it would be a felony charge under California Vehicle Code § 200013, which carries penalties and legal ramifications that include: 

  • 16 months to 3 years in prison for serious property damage
  • A fine between $1,000 to $10,000
  • 2 to 4 years in prison in cases of death or serious injury 

What About A Drunken Hit and Run? 

Naturally, an accident that takes place while you’re under the influence will increase the severity of penalties you face for a hit and run accident. According to Kann Law Office, in California these are:4 

  • Misdemeanor charge 
    • 3 to 5 years of probation
    • Imprisonment in county jail for at least 5 days but not more than 1 year
    • Fines anywhere between $390 to $5000 dollars
    • 1 to 3 year suspension of a California driver’s license;
    • Restitution paid to the victim(s)
    • 3, 9, 18, or 30-months in an alcohol and drug education program
  • Felony charge
    • 2 to 4 years in state prison
    • 1 additional year in state prison for each individual injured up to three additional years
    • 3 to 6 extra years in state prison for great bodily injury
    • Fines from $1,015 to $5,000 dollars
    • 18 to 30 months in an alcohol and drug education program
    • Listed as a Habitual Traffic Offender for 3 years
    • 5-year revocation of a California driver’s license
    • Strike on a California driving record for great bodily injury

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Drive Smart, Drive Safe—With Insurance 

Naturally, accidents occur. People make mistakes. How do you know what to do after a minor car accident? In any type of accident, remember to remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives and tells you the next steps. Either a misdemeanor or a felony could have significant consequences.

Additionally, remember to always carry auto insurance. That way, you know that you’re financially protected from whatever life throws your way.

Do you need help with that? 

4AutoInsuranceQuote is your one-stop online auto insurance guide! Together, we can help you compare quotes and find the most competitive rates available.   

References:

  1. AAA. Hit-and-Run Crashes: Prevalence, Contributing Factors and Countermeasures. https://aaafoundation.org/hit-and-run-crashes-prevalence-contributing-factors-and-countermeasures/
  2. California Legislative Information. California Vehicle Code § 20002. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=20002.&lawCode=VEH
  3. California Legislative Information. California Vehicle Code § 20001. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=2000
  4. Kann Law Office. California Vehicle Code § 20002 – Hit and Run. https://www.kannlawoffice.com/hit-and-run

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