What happens if you leave the scene of an accident? Well, the answer is nothing good! The law dictates - even if the accident is not your fault - that when you’ve been involved in an accident, you need to stop immediately, help any injured people, exchange details (with the other driver or property owner), and report the accident to the police.
Failure to stop and fleeing a scene can result in hefty fines or criminal charges. Even though it may be tempting to flee in a situation of fear or shock, it’s important that, if you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you stay put and deal with the situation at hand.
So, what can happen to you if you decide to flee the scene of an accident?
What can I be charged with?
The police can charge you with one or more of the following offenses:
- Failure to stop after an accident.
- Failure to render assistance.
- Failure to exchange names and addresses.
- Failure to report an accident to a police station (when no other person is present).
Warrant for Your Arrest
Police will conduct a thorough investigation of the scene of the accident, including interviewing witnesses, reviewing surveillance, and so forth. If they find you guilty of the crime and have fled the scene, they’ll issue a warrant for your arrest and try and locate you immediately.
No Consequences for Passengers
In almost every hit and run, the person is caught and faces charges; however, hit and run laws do not apply to people not directly involved such as witnesses, passengers, and passers-by. Of course, it’s advisable and best that those who see crimes committed get involved - by calling the police not being a super-vigilante - it’s not a crime to leave the scene of the crash.
If the hit and run results in property damage - i.e. you’ve hit a fence on someone’s property, for example and no one was injured - then you may be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $1,000 and jailed for up to one year.
If you’ve injured others in your hit and run such as the other driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, you could be charged with a felony hit and run. Penalties vary by state, but usually the fine is around $10,000 and will also involve jail time.
All hit and run accidents come with steep fines and jail time because of the fleeing aspect.
What if someone was critically injured or died?
If someone was killed or critically injured you will have to appear in court and you may have criminal charges brought against you. You could go to jail and get a large fine. Always seek legal advice for this type of case. Killing someone is an automatic felony in all states if you leave the scene of the accident.
The Mississippi law on fleeing the scene of the accident resulting in injury to another states that, “If any driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in the death of another or the mutilation, disfigurement, permanent disability or the destruction of the tongue, eye, lip, nose or any other limb, organ or member of another willfully fails to stop or to comply with the requirements under the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, then such person, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five (5) nor more than twenty (20) years, or by fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($ 1,000.00) nor more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($ 10,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.” In other words, you’ll be charged with a felony; you’ll be jailed anywhere from five to twenty years; and pay a fine between $1,000 to $10,000.
Exceptions to the Rule
If the driver is incapacitated and cannot render aid, then the driver will not be punished for leaving the scene. So, if you’ve been involved in a car accident, you can seek medical help; however, it’s best to call the police and an ambulance and follow the correct protocol by remaining where you are. You won’t do yourself any good driving to the hospital yourself.
Another exception is if staying on the scene poses danger to the driver, then he or she can leave the scene - such as a potential fuel explosion.
If in doubt, stay put and wait for professional help - the police and medical personnel - to arrive. The last thing you need with injuries and a car accident to deal with is jail time and hefty fines.
If you’ve been involved in a hit and run, make sure you contact a trusted attorney immediately.
If you flee the scene of the accident, consult an attorney as soon as possible since you will face criminal and/or civil charges. A criminal defense attorney licensed in your state can advise you of your options.
At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC., we have over 36 years of experience dealing with civil and criminal cases. Contact us if you need assistance.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.