So, you were driving in Van Nuys and were involved in a traffic collision. You may have been in shock, or panicked, or even unaware. Now LAPD Valley Traffic Division has contacted you about a hit and run. What do you do? Should you go into the station and make a statement, or try to make things right and accept blame? The most important thing to understand if you have been, or think you may have been involved in this situation, is to seek immediate guidance from a Van Nuys hit and run defense attorney.
Typically, when someone contacts me in this situation and retains my services, I want to have a clear understanding of what took place. It is important for me to understand whether anyone may have been injured, the extent of any vehicle or other property damage to you and anyone else, as well as any statements made by anyone who may have seen the incident. Once I have a better perspective of the event, I advise my client not to make any statement about the incident, since any statement made by a client about the collision could form the basis for a criminal case.
I then obtain my client's insurance information, the report number (DR number) of the case, if it has been officially documented by police, and I become the buffer between the investigating detective and my client. I explore the possibility of a civil resolution with the detective and the other party, including possible restitution amounts. A civil resolution may be possible in property damage incidents, though generally not if someone may have been injured. The extent of the property damage, if relatively minor, is also a consideration which may help steer a case away from criminal charges.
If the detective, hit and run attorney, and involved parties can agree on a civil solution, the matter can sometimes be closed out without a referral to the Van Nuys City Attorney for evaluation of criminal charges.
If the case cannot be steered in a civil direction at this point, I continue to advise my client not to make any statement about the incident.
Once the investigation is concluded, if the detective believes there is sufficient evidence to prove a hit and run charge, the case will be sent to the either the District Attorney and/or City Attorney for review. I think this is a productive opportunity to request an out of court solution, such as an Office Hearing, or Pre-filing Diversion, also known as the APPS Program. I usually present information about substantial positive contributions my client has made in the community, as well as a desire on my part to simplify restitution for any damages, and provide closure to everyone. On a case by case basis, alternative programs will be considered by Van Nuys prosecutors.
If a case is filed in court, I will continue to pursue a conviction alternative, such as Civil Compromise pursuant to Penal Code section 1377-1379. If the victim, my client, and the judge are agreeable to this process, the case can be "discharged" and the proceedings ended without a conviction.
If the case does not resolve with a Civil Compromise, it may still be possible for a Van Nuys hit and run attorney to close it out with a less serious charge or other agreement. Because a hit and run charge can be considered as a crime of moral turpitude, as well as a two-point DMV violation (the same as a DUI), I always advise my clients to carefully evaluate all available options, including jury trial, in resolving the hit and run charges.
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