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Name: People v. Guzman
Case #: F057633
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/27/2011

Harbors and Navigation Code section 656.2 is analogous to Vehicle Code section 20003 (hit and run); it imposes both the duty to render assistance and to identify oneself in a boating accident. Guzman was driving a boat that struck a child on a kneeboard being pulled by a personal watercraft; he did not stop to render assistance. Investigating officers located Guzman’s boat which matched the description, but Guzman lied about his involvement. Subsequent investigation indicated that damage to the propeller was consistent with the accident. A first jury found Guzman guilty of operating the boat in a reckless and negligent manner and excessive speed, but there was a mistrial on the charge of failing to identify himself as the operator of the vessel involved in the collision. A second jury was instructed with a modification of CALCRIM No. 2140 used in vehicular hit-and-run cases and included an instruction that the operator is required to identify himself as the operator of a vessel involved in the collision. California v. Byers (1971) 402 U.S. 424, 429, held that a statute requiring drivers involved in an accident to stop at the scene and provide their names and addresses is regulatory and not criminal in nature. It is not a criminal offense to be involved in an accident although it may lead to an inquiry that in turn may, through other factors and developments, result in a criminal charge. The statute in this case is regulatory and does not give rise to criminal liability. The criminal liability only arises from the failure to comply with the reporting requirements.