When I Get in a Car Accident, Will I Face Criminal Charges?

The vast majority of people who break traffic laws are not arrested or charged with a crime. Instead, the driver is responsible for paying a fee for breaking the regulations governing traffic in California. However, if the driver was at fault for the accident, they may be held legally responsible for the injuries and losses that were experienced by the other parties as a result of the collision.

However, depending on the circumstances surrounding the collision, a driver may face criminal charges as a result of the incident. The following are the five circumstances that, if present, would make an automobile accident in California a criminal offense:


According to Section 2001 of the California Penal Code, a driver who is engaged in an accident has the obligation to either stop the vehicle immediately or return to the scene of the accident. The state of California has enacted a number of regulations that are directed primarily at drivers who hit someone and then drove away.

A charge of hit-and-run is considered a misdemeanor in most cases. If you are found guilty, you might have to pay fines and spend some time in jail. If the driver who caused the accident causes death or major physical injury, they might be facing felony charges that could land them in state jail for a number of years.


According to the state’s DUI statutes, it is against the law to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as to operate a vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol content) that is higher than the permissible level. In addition, the victim may be eligible for reimbursement for damages if they can demonstrate that the accident was caused by a drunk driver and that they were hurt as a result.

In either scenario, the impaired motorist will most likely face charges of driving under the influence as a result of the vehicle accident. A conviction for driving under the influence in the state of California can result in a variety of consequences, including monetary fines, the suspension of a driver’s license, attendance at DUI school, possible incarceration, and community service.


Unfortunately, some people pass away as a result of injuries sustained in car accidents. In a case of wrongful death, the family of the victim has the legal right to file a lawsuit against the motorist who was responsible for the accident. On the other hand, criminal proceedings could be brought against the driver who was at fault by the state.

The offense of vehicular manslaughter is defined by Section 192(c)(1) of the California Penal Code. A person might be found guilty of vehicular manslaughter if the following conditions are met:

  • They are the driver of a vehicle; They cause an accident as a result of their actions or omissions; and the accident involving the vehicle is the direct cause of the death of another person.
  • The negligence of a motorist is the foundation for the crime of vehicular manslaughter. It is not necessary for the driver to have the intention of causing a car accident or the death of another person.

In the state of California, examples of irresponsible behavior that could lead to a prosecution for vehicular manslaughter include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Driving while distracted includes activities such as texting, eating, putting on makeup, reading, and many others.
  • Too close following of the vehicle in front of you, often known as tailgating
  • Ignoring a stop sign or failing to give the right of way are both violations of the law.
  • Conducting a prohibited U-turn or switching lanes in an unsafe manner
  • Drowsy driving and falling asleep behind the wheel are both dangerous behaviors.

In the event that a motorist does not exercise the level of caution that is considered appropriate while behind the wheel, they run the risk of being prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter.

In most jurisdictions, causing death by vehicle is considered a class A misdemeanor. A conviction for vehicular manslaughter may result in penalties including fines, a driver’s license suspension for a period of one year, and incarceration for up to six months. If the incident took place in a construction zone, the repercussions could be more severe.


In Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code, “reckless driving” is defined. If you are careless behind the wheel and cause an accident, you may be held financially responsible for the harm caused to other people.

The following are examples of reckless driving, but the list is not exhaustive:

  • Driving a vehicle in a careless or reckless manner, especially with regard to the well-being of other people or their property
  • Using a vehicle in an illegal speed competition or putting on an illegal race are both violations of the law.
  • Taking part in or conducting illegal driving demonstrations of skill, such as stunts, including driving
  • Accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians that result from a driver’s negligence while operating a vehicle

Driving in a careless or dangerous manner might potentially get you charged with a minor crime. However, in the state of California, the allegation of careless driving is elevated to the level of a Category B felony if the vehicle accident you caused resulted in serious injuries or death. If you are found guilty of driving recklessly and causing an accident that results in personal harm or death, you might face a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum prison sentence of six years.


Almost always, the offender faces criminal charges if they refuse to stop when asked to do so by law enforcement. It is possible that the driver will be prosecuted for reckless driving, but other criminal charges may also be brought against them based on the circumstances of the incident. For instance, if a driver causes a car accident while evading the police, the driver can be held accountable for manslaughter, homicide, and other crimes.


If a driver is facing criminal charges because of an auto accident, they may need to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. In addition, because a car collision might lead to a claim for personal injury, it is also a good idea to seek the legal guidance that car accident attorneys can provide, as they are in the best position to do so.

Whether you are facing criminal charges for a vehicle accident or were wounded after a car accident caused by the negligence of someone else, you should get in touch with an expert law company and book a consultation to discuss your case. You may do this regardless of whether the car accident was your fault or the other driver was negligent.