Can I be accused of hit and run without evidence?

UPDATED: May 28, 2012

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Can I be accused of hit and run without evidence?

An investigator came to knock on my door and said that I and a vehicle my wife owns we’re involved in a hit and run. I explained that that is impossible and that neither my wife or I were involved in any accident. He insisted that our can looks like it had recent damage. This isn’t true. My wife crashed our van years ago but he kept arguing the accident looked fresh. He said he would impound the car. I did not give him my information. What to do now?

Asked on May 28, 2012 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As you write, it's not the case that there is *no* evidence--there is evidence (damage to the car) which you believe is not relevant to the current situation, but which could, on its face, provide some evidence of an accident.

To be convicted of a crime, there must be evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt"; to lose a civil lawsuit, you must be shown to be at fault and responsible for some damage "beyond a preponderance of the evidence"--or that it's more likely than not that you are responsible. The threshhold for either filing charges or initiating a lawsuit is lower still, but there must be at least some evidence. It would seem to require more than just evidence that your car  is damaged--for example, an eyewitness describing a car looking like yours as being the hit and run vehicle, coupled with the damage to your car. Therefore, it is unlikely that you be charged or face any legal liability without something more, though that something could be almost anything: e.g. eyewitness testimony, a picture from a stop light camera, etc.

If you are potentially being accused of a hit and run, retain an attorney, and do NOT say anything to anyone without clearing it with your lawyer. And do not allow anyone to take your car just on their say-so, without speaking with your attorney--besides the fact that you don't want to give the other side potential evidence against you, it is also possible this part of some sort of scam to steal your car--did you check the bona fides or credential of the investigator, for example?

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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