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California hit and run statute does not require defendant’s actual knowledge that the collision involved another person

Most recently the appellate court’s came down the with ruling above. In People v. Harbert, 170 Cal. App. 4th 42, the defendant was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident where there was an injury under Vehicle Code Section 20001. The defendant argued that the code section requires proof that the defendant had actual knowledge of having been involved in a hit and run accident that resulted in an injury to a person. The appellate court, however, opined that constructive knowledge is sufficient to show the accident or collision involved a person.

Defendant Harbert in this case believed he hit a deer instead of a person, however, his actions after the accident was relevant to show knowledge of having been in an accident with a human being and not a deer. The court stated that actual knowledge is not required but constructive knowledge is enough to show that the defendant had known that he was involved in an accident with another person. Victim was walking home from work attempting to cross a busy street when she was hit by defendant’s car. The Victim died an hour later at the hospital. The defendant did not stop and had his vehicle repaired subsequently, the police obtained a warrant and searched his home and found the vehicle covered in the garage with considerable damages. The victim’s earring was lodged in the windshield well of defendant’s car. Police seized defendant’s computer and determined he had searched the local police department’s website about this recent incident. Defendant also searched topics such as “auto accidents and the law” and topics such as “auto glass” and “auto parts”. Defendant further made a search for “hit and run” within a few days of the incident and the topic of “auto glass reporting requirements to law enforcement”.

The circumstantial evidence against the defendant was overwhelming. Defendant admitted to driving his vehicle that night and hitting an object. There was no evidence that defendant’s vehicle collided with another vehicle and the victim was near the proximity of a crosswalk where the incident occurred. Furthermore, Defendant admitted that he did not actually see a deer and there was no evidence that the defendant had personal knowledge that deer were in that area near the site of incident. There was also evidence that deer did not frequent that particular area. The impact caused considerable damage to defendant’s vehicle, tore off the hood ornament, and destroyed his windshield. Defendant also testified that he had entertained the thought that he had hit a human being. Additionally, once defendant arrived home, he searched the internet for things related to a hit and run showing his suspicions lingered and would not go away. The defendant was convicted and sentenced to state prison.

Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorneys in California know what it takes to defend crimes such as the one described above and that could mean the difference between staying in jail and having your freedom. Call now to speak to an experienced criminal law attorney at Wallin & Klarich.

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