Car accidents happen. Because they can result in serious bodily injury and even death, there are many laws governing what drivers and accident victims are to do after being involved in collisions. In some cases, the actions you take after being involved in an accident, like leaving the scene, can result in a criminal charge.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, you are legally required to remain at the scene and exchange contact information with the other parties involved or, at the very least, leave a note on the other vehicle’s windshield with your contact information. In most states, there are steep penalties for willfully leaving an accident scene. These are:
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in vehicular damage is usually charged as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in bodily injury or death is usually charged as a Class 4 felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
- Leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in bodily injury or death without reporting the accident to police within 30 minutes is usually charged as a Class 2 felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Limit your Conversations with Law Enforcement
When you are accused of leaving the scene of an accident, keep your rights in mind during interactions with law enforcement. You may remain silent and you may refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present. Take full advantage of these rights because they are designed to protect you from incriminating yourself.
Possible Defenses for your Case
Sometimes, you have no choice but to leave the scene of an accident. You may be able to successfully defend your case by explaining this to the court.
A few potential defenses to use to defend your case include:
- You did not know you were involved in an accident because the impact was too minor to register.
- You could not safely stop and remain at the scene due to where it happened.
- Outside circumstances, like your own medical emergency, made it impossible to stop and remain at the scene of the accident.
- You could not determine the other driver’s identity.
- The other driver became aggressive and made you feel threatened and unsafe to remain at the scene.
Start Working with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Leaving the scene of a car accident is a serious charge. Take the charge seriously and start working with a lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer from the Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C., as soon as possible after you learn you will be charged. Call a law office today to schedule a consultation.