Vehicle Code Section 20001 and Landmark California Cases on Felony Hit-and-run

California Vehicle Code Section 20001, subdivision (a) defines felony hit-and-run causing injury: "The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or herself ... shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and shall fulfill the requirements of Sections 20003 give identification information and render aid and 20004 report the accident." () When the accident results in death or permanent, serious injury, subdivision (b)(2) of the same section imposes a harsher punishment. The word "injury" is not defined in section 20001; therefore, we must interpret the statute by '"ascertaining the intent of the lawmakers so as to effectuate the purpose of the law. In order to determine this intent, we begin by examining the language of the statute. "' (People v. Pieters (1991) 52 Cal.3d 894, 898.) The plain language of section 20001 states only that an injury is necessary. The ordinary meaning of "injury" is "hurt, damage, or loss sustained." (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dict. (10th ed. 1999) p. 602.) The fact that subdivision (b)(2) of section 20001 imposes a harsher punishment when death or permanent, serious injury result, indicates that "injury," as used in subdivision (a), includes injuries that are not permanent and serious. (See Charles S. v. Board of Education (1971) 20 Cal.App.3d 83, 95 Legislature intended a different meaning and effect when different language was used in the same connection in different parts of a statute.) "'The gravamen of a section 20001 offense ... is not the initial injury of the victim, but leaving the scene without presenting identification or rendering aid.' " (People v. Harbert (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 42, 59, ) "'"Although a violation of section 20001 is popularly denominated 'hit-and-run,' the act made criminal thereunder is not the 'hitting' but the 'running.'"'" (People v. Wood (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 862, 866.) In addition, section 20001 applies not only when injuries are caused to pedestrians or to drivers and passengers in other vehicles, but also when injuries are caused to passengers in the driver's own vehicle. (People v. Lobaugh (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 75, 81; People v. Kinney (1938) 28 Cal.App.2d 232, 237-240.) A defendant must have either actual or constructive knowledge of the injury to support a conviction under section 20001. (People v. Carter (1966) 243 Cal.App.2d 239, 241.) Criminal liability attaches to a driver "if he actually knew of the injury or if he knew that the accident was of such a nature that one would reasonably anticipate that it resulted in injury to a person." (People v. Holford (1965) 63 Cal.2d 74, 81, People v. Carter, supra, at p. 241.) "'Knowledge on the part of the driver ... must usually be proved by showing the surrounding facts and circumstances which indicate such a knowledge. '" (People v. Wolf (1978) 78 Cal.App.3d 735, 740.)