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38 Brook. L. Rev. 728 (1971-1972)
California v. Byers: Hit-and-Run Statutes and the Privilege against Self-Incrimination

handle is hein.journals/brklr38 and id is 750 raw text is: CALIFORNIA V. BYERS: HIT-AND-RUN STATUTES AND
The privilege that protects the individual from compulsory self-
incrimination, as assured by the fifth amendment, inevitably clashes
with the government's need to gather information. Even when en-
gaged in purely regulatory activity the government is bound to en-
counter resistence from citizens who claim that to divulge certain
data, or even to behave in a prescribed way, would involve them in a
risk of prosecution.
The problem arose recently in a California motor vehicle case
that reached the United States Supreme Court.' The statute in ques-
tion is of the type commonly denoted hit-and-run, and has coun-
terparts in every state and the District of Columbia.2 Such statutes
require that drivers who are involved in accidents causing damage or
injury stop and.identify themselves.
On first glance the matter of self-incrimination is not readily
apparent. To begin with, the act of being in an automobile accident
is not necessarily criminal. Secondly, even if it were, the individual is
not required to make any incriminating statement; most states de-
mand no more than a name and address. And finally, the purpose of
the statute is more civil, indeed humane, than criminal. Injured parties
are aided3 and insurance procedures are facilitated. A          report can be
I California v. Byers, 402 U.S. 424 (1971).
2 See, e.g., N.Y. VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC L. § 600 (McKinney 1971); MASS. ANN. LAWS,
ch. 90, 24(2) (1967); Illinois: S.H.A. ch.95   § 11-401.
At the time of the accident, section 20002(a) of the California Vehicle Code [hereinafter
cited as Code] provided:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in damage to any property
including vehicles shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident and
shall then and there either: (1) Locate and notify the owner or person in charge of
such property of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle involved,
or; (2) Leave in a conspicuous place on the vehicle or other property damaged a
written notice giving the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the
vehicle involved and a statement of the circumstances thereof and shall without
unnecessary delay notify the police department of the city wherein the collision oc-
curred or, if the collision occurred in unincorporated territory, the local headquarters
of the Department of the California Highway Patrol. Any person failing to stop or
to comply with said requirements under such circumstances is guilty of a misde-
meanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the county
jail for not to exceed six months or by a fine of not to exceed five hundred dollars
($500) or by both.
As for aid to the injured, section 20003 requires that:
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of

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