If a person leaves the scene of an accident, even if he or she was not at fault, the person may face a variety of criminal charges. Additionally, if the person was at fault in the accident or a person was injured, the person may face stronger charges. This is especially true if the person is driving without a valid license, was drinking and driving or otherwise feels culpable for the accident. However, leaving the scene of an accident can have several negative consequences.
Process Involved after Defendant Leaves the Scene
If a particular person leaves the scene of an accident, it is common for the following process to be commenced. First, law enforcement agents arrive on the scene and may conduct an investigation. If there were any witnesses, law enforcement officers may ask them questions about what they observed. Additionally, law enforcement officers may check with any surveillance footage of the area, including traffic light cameras or cameras for nearby businesses. For more extensive investigations, law enforcement officers may test the paint that was on the victim’s vehicle at the point of impact in order to narrow down the type of vehicle that was involved in the accident. Law enforcement officers may also investigate whether alcohol or drugs may have been involved in the accident. If the evidence available helps law enforcement pinpoint who the fleeing driver is, they may go that person’s residence or workplace to locate him or her.
Issuance of a Warrant
In some instances, law enforcement officers may secure a warrant once they identify the fleeing driver.
When a person flees the scene of an accident or other crime, he or she often appears guilty. Even if no criminal charges are lodged against such an individual, the injured victim may pursue a civil claim for damages against the driver. A jury may interpret a person’s fleeing from the scene of the accident as guilt, even if the fleeing driver did not actually do anything wrong.
Best Course of Action
Even if a person has taken part in other criminal activity, he or she will likely be advised to remain at the scene of the accident. If police must go looking for the individual, he or she may face criminal charges for fleeing, in addition to charges for the underlying criminal behavior that caused him or her to flee the scene. Even if a person is unsure as to who was at fault in the accident, it is usually best for him or her to wait for authorities to arrive at the scene of the accident. Doing so may help the individual avoid serious criminal charges to discuss the circumstances of the accident. Additionally, if you will be facing criminal charges, you can contact a defense attorney during these early stages to help defend you.
In many states, it is considered a misdemeanor to hit and run if the accident resulted in only property damage and no physical injury. For misdemeanor convictions, the defendant may be required to pay fines and/or serve time in jail up to one year. However, in cases in which the other driver or his or her passengers were hurt or killed, punishments are usually much more severe if the defendant commits a hit and run. In this scenario, the driver may face much higher fines and a longer period of incarceration. If the accident resulted in death, all states consider it a felony for a person to flee the scene of the accident.
If a person makes the mistake of fleeing the scene of an accident, there may be ways for him or her to mitigate the damage and potential consequences he or she will likely face. Law enforcement officers may be actively searching for the driver. The driver may be advised to turn himself in. It will sound much better to a judge or jury that the driver took responsibility for his or her actions after the fact than if law enforcement had to hunt him or her down. Such a driver should also secure the assistance of a criminal defense attorney who can ensure that the driver’s side of the story is heard in court and that his or her legal interests are protected.