Ex-Disney star Jake T. Austin WAS the driver of the car that crashed into 3 other vehicles early Tuesday morning -- but because of some swift and clever legal gymnastics by his lawyer, Jake may actually avoid prosecution ... TMZ has learned.
Here's the way it went down -- sources intimately familiar with the situation tell TMZ, 18-year-old Jake and a friend were driving in Studio City around 3AM when he crashed into the 3 cars.
Witnesses say Jake tossed a Ciroc vodka bottle out of the car, but before cops arrived at the scene, we're told Jake ordered an Uber (Town Car service) ... and he and his friend high-tailed it out.
Cops suspect drinking was involved, but there's no way Jake could be prosecuted for drunk driving because police never located him. And, we're told, Jake denies he had been drinking.
But drinking aside, Austin is still in trouble for leaving the scene of an accident without providing identifying information ... which constitutes a hit-and-run. But Jake's lawyer pulled off some legal acrobatics that could get Jake off the hook.
We're told the lawyer called cops at 4am and told them Jake was the owner of the car. Cleverly, the lawyer did NOT disclose the fact that Jake was the driver ... so as not to violate the attorney-client privilege, especially important because leaving the scene is a crime.
And here's where it gets really good -- we're told Jake has an iron-clad excuse for leaving the scene: he and his passenger were injured and needed immediate medical attention. In other words, they didn't have time to leave a note.
We're told Jake had an injury to his mouth, and went directly to the ER and received stitches.
And the coup de grace, we're told Jake's lawyer has made it clear ... the victims will be fully compensated ... so there's really no need to prosecute.
The legal maneuvering might have saved the lawyer a huge headache on multiple fronts -- he's also repping Jake after the kid's DUI arrest last month.