The Hit-and-Run

Imagine that you’re trying to get out of your tight parking place at a Big Box store.  You back up and feel what seems to be a soft nudge of your bumper against the bumper of a parked car.  You’re in a hurry to get home, so you don’t bother to check for any damage, besides, it was just two cars touching bumpers, right?  You get home and take a look at your bumper.  No damage, really, but there’s a slight scuffing about six inches long that wasn’t there before.

A couple of hours later, you get a call from the California Highway Patrol.  It seems that someone got you car’s license number after witnessing the “nudge” you made in contacting another vehicle.  The CHP got your name, home address from your car’s license number, and from that got your drivers license information, and later your telephone number from the phone company.  All in an hour or so.  The officer calling identifies himself and asks if you were at the Big Box store an hour or two before.  Without thinking, you admit that you were there, and then also admit to driving your vehicle.

You’ve just incriminated yourself in a misdemeanor “hit-and-run” criminal offense.  Even though no one was injured, if there is any damage to another car from contact with your vehicle – even if the contact was not your fault – you are required to stop and exchange insurance and drivers license information with the other driver.  If the other driver is not present, then you must leave a note with that information, and also contact local law enforcement, at least by telephone, and report the damage and contact information to them.   If you don’t, you could be charged with a crime.  A misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a heavy fine, so this is no mere “moving violation” ticket we’re talking about.

If you find yourself in anything like this situation, call your attorney before you speak to anyone, including law enforcement, about the incident.