Anyone involved in a hit-and-run investigation should consider hiring legal representation.
The law mandates that anyone involved in an accident needs to get their vehicle to a safe place (if possible) and exchange information with others involved. They are also urged to call the police and make them aware of the accident.
But if someone chooses to leave the scene instead, it is commonly called a hit-and-run, and is illegal.
These cases can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. But the law is very clear on the disparity between the two charges.
Here are the two differences:
- Felony hit-and-run
If a person is injured or killed and the driver who is suspected of having caused the wreck has left the scene, that motorist is looking at a felony charge.
- Misdemeanor hit-and-run
If there is only property damage at an accident and no one is injured, the offense is a misdemeanor.
Either way, though, without solid legal representation, a driver charged in a hit-and-run could be facing serious consequences.
Here are some of the ramifications of a hit-and-run charge:
- Possible prison or jail time
- A long, supervised probation with various conditions
- Lost driving privileges
- Hefty fines and surcharges
While some accidents result in serious injuries or even fatalities, most do not. Some hit-and-run accidents are minor fender benders, where one party gets frightened or nervous and leaves for various reasons. The question is not who is at fault. All parties involved in an accident have a duty to remain on the scene and provide information.
An experienced traffic lawyer can help a motorist charged with hit-and-run, and possibly keep them from facing any criminal action.
Listed below are some of the top suspected reasons a driver leaves the scene of an accident:
- The driver may have a warrant or other current legal troubles
- They don’t have insurance
- They don’t have a valid driver’s license
- They are under the influence at the time
- They don’t realize they have hit someone or another vehicle
- They only have a driver’s license from another country
- They feel threatened by the other driver or their passengers
If a motorist is involved in a hit-and-run accident, they should reach out to a traffic attorney who specializes in hit and run investigations for a consultation. Such an attorney will take the time to answer your questions and explain the process of rectifying the situation.
In some cases, just one appointment with an attorney can help you avoid further mistakes that can place you in legal jeopardy. In those instances where it may too late, and you have been charged with failing to stop and give information, a knowledgeable traffic attorney can defend you and often get the case dismissed.
There are a few defenses against a hit-and-run charge, and a traffic attorney may use any of them to work in the motorist’s favor. However, every case is different, and each defense depends on the circumstances involved in the case.
Here are some of the defenses that may be used for a hit-and-run:
- Someone else was driving
In a hit-and-run case, only the driver can be charged. Any passengers in the vehicle are not held responsible and neither is the owner of the car, unless they were driving. Cars that are stolen also fall under this defense.
- No injuries or damage were caused
Unless a motorist can prove they were injured or had property damaged to a sufficient degree, there cannot be a hit-and-run. Those two items are the very definition of what constitutes a hit-and-run, and without evidence of either, there is no case.
- The driver didn’t believe there was a problem
If an alleged hit-and-run driver thought that no one was injured or that any property was damaged, their lawyer can make that very clear in court. That can result in charges being dramatically reduced or even dropped.
- Extenuating circumstances
If a motorist left the scene of an accident because they felt threatened by people in the other vehicle or nearby witnesses, their lawyer can make that case.
- The inability of the prosecution to identify who the driver actually was.
A person can actually be guilty of failing to stop and give information, but the other driver may not have been able to get a good look at the driver. There must be sufficient evidence of the identity of the driver.
If you know someone who is or might be under investigation for hit and run, advise them to hire a competent lawyer immediately. A good lawyer will not spill the beans as to the identity of the driver/client if that identity is in question. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a hit-and-run, having legal representation is something to seriously consider. At the very least, call an attorney before you talk to the police.