Defenses to Hit and Run Cases
(Vehicle Code Section 20002(a))
Hit and Run cases are generally considered minor cases; as such investigating officers are often willing to resolve the case before it goes to court. Usually, this means that the victim is willing to accept a monetary settlement and agree they do not want prosecution. If this happens the investigating officer can simply use his discretion and not send the case to the District Attorney for filing. As such, the case never goes to court.
Once a case is in court, a Hit and Run charged as a misdemeanor can be resolved via Penal Code Sections 1377 and 1378; also known as a Civil Compromise. This occurs when the victim of the crime acknowledges being fully compensated and then the Court, upon the request of the Defense, can decide to stay the criminal proceedings permanently and dismiss the case. This dismissal by the court can occur over the objection of the District Attorney or other prosecuting attorney. Practically speaking most judges will want to know whether the victim desires prosecution; also, the whole process goes much smoother if the District Attorney is on-board.
As a matter of practice the majority of victims in these cases are more then happy to settle monetarily and “waive” the criminal proceedings; similarly, if the victim is satisfied most District Attorneys and Judges are happy to agree to a Civil Compromise.
In addition to a Civil Compromise Hit and Run cases can be resolved by negotiating a Deferred Entry of Judgment (DEJ) with the District Attorney. This is where the Defendant pleads guilty to the crime but sentencing is deferred to a later date. The Defendant normally attends a class or performs community service in the interim. When the date comes and if the District Attorney is satisfied that the Defendant has performed his community service or other “punishment”, then the plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed. Because the Defendant was never sentenced there is no conviction under California law. This manner of resolving criminal cases is used most frequently in cases of possession or being under the influence of illegal narcotics but may also be used in cases of hit and run.
By far the most desirable result in a hit and run case that is before a court is where no plea is entered and the District Attorney simply agrees to continue the case for some duration of time in order to give the Defendant the opportunity to take a class or perform community service. This is called a District Attorney Continuance. It is the most desirable outcome because there is no plea of guilty and then the case is dismissed.
You may be eligible for any of these outcomes. Please consult with Mr. Bruzzo at (714) 547-4636