A hit and run is generally defined as being involved in a car accident, either with another vehicle, a motorbike, or even pedestrians, and then leaving the scene without stopping to identify oneself, or provide aid to anyone who might need assistance.
Common hit and run circumstances include:
- Drivers causing serious injury to a pedestrian and fleeing the scene because he or she was driving with a suspended license from a previous DUI charge and did not want to be charged for another offence
- Drivers hitting a parked car and leaving the scene to avoid paying for property damage
- Drivers hitting police cars that have been set up as part of a roadblock to avoid getting in trouble
Fleeing the scene of an accident has serious consequences and all drivers should think twice before leaving the scene of any accident they have been involved in.
Consequences Of a Hit and Run
In most states, it doesn’t matter whether a driver caused the accident or not. The fact that a party left the scene is enough to face penalties associated with a hit and run accident. An exception to this is if someone left to try to get help, as long as he or she returns to the scene immediately.
The penalties for hit and runs vary from state to state, but many classify the charge as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on specific circumstances. Felony charges tend to be imposed in instances where a person has suffered any kind of injury, whether the injured person was a pedestrian or occupant in another vehicle. Guilty persons may be fined anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, in addition to the possibility of jail time of up to 15 years. A misdemeanor offense, while less severe than a felony, is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and also up to one year in jail.
In addition to criminal consequences of a hit and run, almost every state imposes administrative penalties related to the person’s license. Any conviction will usually result in automatic suspension or revocation of the driver’s license for about six months. Some states impose the suspension for as long as three years, or even a lifetime depending on the circumstances of the accident.
At-fault drivers may also be subject to civil cases. An injured party can file a claim for damages to their property, in addition to compensation for medical treatment and lost wages.
In a criminal trial, a prosecutor must usually prove the following facts to find someone guilty of a hit and run:
- While driving, the defendant was involved in the vehicle accident
- The accident caused serious injury, permanent injury, or death to someone else
- The defendant knew he or she was involved in the accident that caused injury to someone else, or knew that injury was probable given the circumstances of the accident, AND he or she willfully failed to perform one or more of the following duties:
- To stop immediately at the scene
- To provide reasonable assistance to any injured persons
- To give involved parties or authorities their contact and vehicle information; if not their vehicle, to provide the details for the owner of the vehicle; to provide the name and details of injured individuals in his or her vehicle; to show a driver’s license upon request at the scene; to notify authorities without unnecessary delay to fatalities as a result of the accident.