Can a Hit-and-Run Lead to Murder Charges?
In California, a hit-and-run occurs when you are involved in an accident but fail to uphold your legal responsibilities immediately following. This type of offense is charged as a misdemeanor. However, if the accident resulted in death of another, you could be facing a murder charge.
California Hit-and-Run Laws
After a crash, regardless of who caused it, you are required to stop at the scene and provide your information to others involved. Failure to do so could result in criminal charges. Conviction penalties could include up to 6 months in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, and restitution to victims.
Depending on the circumstances concerning the collision, if it resulted in someone else’s death, the state could decide to charge you with second-degree murder on top of the hit-and-run charge.
Legal Definition of Murder
Under California law, murder is defined as unlawfully taking another person’s life while carrying out an act that was likely to cause death and shows no thought for the safety of the individual. First-degree murder occurs when an individual uses a destructive weapon, willfully and deliberately mortally wounds somebody, or a person loses their life while the individual is committing a felony. All other actions that result in loss of life are second-degree offenses. A conviction carries with it a prison sentence of 15 years to life.
Hit-and-Run & Second-Degree Murder Charges
In March of 2019, a man was charged with a hit-and-run, as well as manslaughter, after his Dodge Charger collided with a Nissan Altima, killing one of the passengers in the vehicle. He and another passenger left the scene, but law enforcement found him at his home.
The man had been set to plead guilty to the charges, but after reviewing the case, the deputy district attorney decided to file an intent to charge him with second-degree murder. The deputy DA argued that electronic data from the vehicle showed that the man was driving at 150 mph just seconds before the accident with the Altima – a speed that showed wanton disregard for other people’s lives.
The man’s attorney countered the deputy DAs move by stating that the investigation originally reported that her client was driving 140 mph, and the initial charges were based on that. She stated that the new evidence didn’t change the facts of the case, and the man was willing to plead guilty to the lesser charges.
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