Hit-and-run accident may be a felony

Users of the California roadways are not immune to the unfortunate prevalence of automobile accidents that involve a fleeing from the scene by one of the vehicles involved. Commonly noted as a hit-and-run, this fleeing an accident scene can amount to more than a misdemeanor traffic offense and may be a felony with a very stiff punishment.

In the recent publicized tragedy involving Chris Soules, formerly of the television show The Bachelor, Mr. Soules was a driver who allegedly fled the scene of a fatal accident he allegedly caused. Prison time for the felony is a distinct possibility, if convicted. Leaving the scene may also result in steep penalties that would otherwise not have occurred based on the fact of a fatal accident alone. Moreover, calling 911 after leaving the scene of one’s accident does not negate the hit-and-run, although it remains to be seen if doing so will have an effect on the outcome of Mr. Soules’ case.

Passengers or drivers are not the only victims of hit-and-run accidents. USA Today reports that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has found that about 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities are hit-and-runs and more than half of all hit-and-runs include pedestrian victims. It is believed that there may be a higher incidence of leaving the scene of the accident among those drivers who believe they have done something else wrong with regard to operating the vehicle, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or driving without a valid license.

Regardless of the reasons behind a driver’s decision to leave the scene of an accident, the criminal penalties can be very stringent, adding far more legal difficulties to the driver being charged than the accident itself.

 

New marijuana laws for drivers

With the legalization of marijuana becoming law in California in 2018, lawmakers are preparing to create regulations to help law enforcement and prosecutors. Part of this preparation are laws restricting the use of pot behind the wheel.

As Courthouse News Services reports, Governor Brown signed legislation into law that restricts driving while drugged and prohibiting open containers of pot in a moving vehicle. The laws were written by Assemblyman Bob Lackey, R-Palmdale, who was previously a California Highway Patrol officer before taking office. The laws are meant to make the rules clear to motorists who are soon legally able to partake of marijuana. Both Washington and Colorado ran into problems on the road when legalization occurred, and lawmakers are hoping to avoid the same growing pains.

The new laws cover a host of issues, including how to determine if a driver is currently impaired and training to help CHP officers to learn how to use a swab technology that measures how active THC is in a driver. Because THC can remain in a person’s system for up to 30 days, the test, which has been used in several California counties already, uses a specific compound to determine how recently the drug entered a driver’s system. A separate bill determining legal limits is still in discussions in the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

According to KHTS, marijuana will follow the same rules as alcohol when being transported in a car: a sealed container is allowed in the cabin, but anything with a broken seal will need to be carried in the trunk. 

Alcohol a factor in auto-pedestrian accident in Santa Ana

Often, the circumstances of an arrest in Encino may prompt law enforcement officials to charge an individual with multiple offenses. An example may be were one was alleged driving drunk while also committing a moving violation or driving with a suspended or revoked license. In such situations, one facing criminal charges may be concerned that authorities may be overzealous in leveling accusations against him or her, perhaps in an attempt to make an example to others. It should be remembered in such cases that one should only face the charges that his or her actions may have warranted.

A myriad of charges appear to be awaiting the driver allegedly responsible for injuring five teens in Santa Ana. Three of the teens were taken to local trauma centers for treatment, while one suffered only minor injuries (the status of the fifth was not reported). The accident occurred when the vehicle involved struck a pole, injuring the two teens that were standing nearby. There were reportedly three teenage occupants traveling in the car, in which investigators subsequently found open alcohol containers. Not only to officials say that the driver was allegedly drunk, but they claim that the driver was also unlicensed and underage.

Kids and teens often may be prone to errors in judgment that, with benefit of added age and maturity, they would not necessarily make later on in life. The question is whether immature actions should deny them the opportunity to learn and apply those lessons later in life. Sometimes, the results of a teen’s irresponsible actions may leave law enforcement authorities feeling as though they have no choice but to pursue serious charges. In such a case, a teen (and his or her family) may benefit greatly from having an attorney to turn to.

Source: KABC-TV “Underage DUI driver strikes pedestrians in Santa Ana, police say” Lee, Greg, July 13, 2017

Points on your license can affect your insurance

When you get a speeding ticket or are stopped for other traffic infractions, it’s usually not the end of the world. One of the things it can do, though, is raise the cost of your insurance as a result of points on your license.

This is one reason why many people choose to fight their speeding tickets or other types of tickets. If the ticket is dismissed, then the points don’t go on their licenses and they don’t have to worry about an increase in their insurance rates.

Do points on your license matter to insurance companies?

Yes. When you have excessive points and violations, it shows that you’re a dangerous or reckless driver. In the company’s eyes, you’re a high-risk driver, which means they think you’re more likely to cause a crash.

Does every point I get affect my insurance?

Not always. Interestingly, the insurance companies don’t use the state motor vehicle department’s point system to determine your insurance rates. Instead, these companies use their own system. Usually, a certain number of points or certain type of infraction reported will increase your insurance by a predetermined percentage. Your insurance company should be able to provide that information if you ask for it.

How else do points affect me?

If you get four or more points in 12 months, you will have your license suspended for six months. You’ll also be placed on probation for a year. The same is true if you collect eight points over the course of three years or six in two. California assigns points ranging from zero to three per offense, so as few as two offenses could lead to the loss of your license.

While points can affect you in the short term, if you have only one violation per year, you’d be highly unlikely to lose your license unless each infraction was severe. You may see an increase in insurance costs as a result, however.

Camera use by officers

Have you been stopped by a police officer in California recently? If so, were you told that your interaction with the officer was being recorded on camera? In the last few years, the use of cameras worn by police officers has been increasing and interest in this technology and its potential benefits and pitfalls has also grown. 

PoliceMisconduct.net explains that one of the alleged or desired benefits of police body cameras is greater oversight of police officer behavior. Even in what may begin as a seemingly simple or routine traffic stop, the potential for officers to become hostile or discriminatory against drivers exists. By capturing stops on camera, the hope is that police misconduct may be curbed or ideally even eliminated.

Some research was done between February 2012 and February 2013 in California looking at the impact of the use of body cameras. In the three years prior to the study, police use of force remained relatively steady while complaints about officer behavior fluctuated. During the study period, however, significant drops in both the use of force and complaints about officer behavior were noted. Some people may have concerns about citizen privacy and laws may need to address what footage can be released when and why but it may well be that video footage may offer a level of protection to residents.

If you would like to learn more about your rights and expected police behavior during a traffic stop or any other type of encounter with law enforcement, please feel free to visit the vehicular citations page of our California traffic violations website.