Most drivers are involved in some type of accident over their driving history. The law requires those involved in an accident to exchange information with the other drivers involved. But what happens when someone fails to exchange information, or takes off after an accident?
What is a Hit and Run?
Under Massachusetts law, if a driver collides with, or otherwise causes damage to another vehicle or property, they must provide their name, address, and vehicle registration number. Failure to do so is considered a hit-and-run, or "leaving the scene" of an accident.
Hit and Run Penalties
The penalties for a hit and run conviction will depend on the type of damage, whether it is only to property, or also results in injury or death. A hit and run that only involves property damage is still a crime, and punishable by a fine of up to $200, and up to two years in jail. However, if the accident results in a serious injury or death, the penalties are much more severe.
Hit and Run with an Injury
If a driver does not provide their contact information after an accident which results in an injury, and they take off to avoid prosecution, or evade the police, they will face fines from $500 to $1,000. In addition, they may be sentenced to prison for a minimum of six months, on up to two years.
Hit and Run Involving Death
If a driver is involved in a tragic accident where someone is injured resulting in their death, a driver who does not provide their contact information, and they flee the scene to avoid prosecution, or evade apprehension, they will face severe penalties. Conviction of a hit and run resulting in death will lead to a minimum of two and one-half years in prison, and a fine of $1,000. The maximum sentence could be up to ten (10) years in jail, and a fine of $5,000. This conviction also carries a mandatory minimum jail term of one year without parole.
What Do I Have To Do After An Accident?
Under Massachusetts law, every person who is involved in a motor vehicle accident involving injury or death, or property damage of more than $1,000 is required to file a report with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles within five (5) days after the crash. Failure to do so may result in revocation or suspension of your driver's license.
If Convicted for a Hit And Run, What Happens to My Driver's License and Car?
Conviction for a hit-and-run will be reported to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Your license may be immediately revoked. The registrar may also immediately revoke the certificate of registration to your car. You may have to go through a waiting period to have your license reinstated.
Civil Lawsuit for Hit and Run
If you were allegedly involved in a hit and run accident, it is not only the criminal violation and driver's license that you have to worry about. You may be facing a civil suit for the accident. A civil lawsuit may expose you to monetary damages for property damage, or medical costs for an accident resulting in bodily injury.
Operating Under the Influence
Some people may leave the scene of an accident because they are worried that they may be busted for operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs. Also known as a DUI or DWI, some people may believe that getting caught for an OUI is worse than getting caught for a hit and run.
However, if you are caught for leaving the scene of an accident, you may face not only hit and run charges, but could face additional OUI charges resulting in enhanced penalties. If you are facing multiple criminal charges, consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney will provide you the best defense to staying out of jail.
No Auto Insurance
Drivers who do not have auto insurance may try and leave the scene of an accident to avoid getting charged for not having insurance. However, being caught after leaving the scene of an accident will only compound the charges.
Driving on a Revoked or Suspended License
Drivers may leave the scene of an accident if they are driving without a valid driver's license, or driving with a revoked or suspended license. Driving without a valid license is a crime, and if caught for a hit and run, then the multiple charges could increase jail time, fines, and the length of driving restrictions.
Defenses to a Hit and Run Charge
Possible defenses to a hit and run charge, or leaving the scene of an accident, will depend on the individual facts of the case. The prosecution will be required to prove certain elements in order to gain a conviction. Calling into doubt, or presenting evidence which questions the prosecutions claims can result in a determination of no conviction.
Some possible defenses include challenging the prosecution that you were not actually operating the vehicle at the time of the accident, or your car was not responsible for causing any accident or damage, or that you complied with the reporting requirements.
An attorney experienced in defending clients before criminal proceedings will best be able to clarify the issues facing the client. If charged with leaving the scene of an accident, or a hit and run, a skilled lawyer can identify the elements required for the prosecution to prove their case, and defend their client in court.