Truth be told, hit and run is a serious offense and can lead to severe consequences. If you get into an accident, your first impulse might be to flee the scene but fleeing the scene of a car accident can also result in very serious consequences. Can you go to jail for a hit and run? Keep reading to find out the answer to this question as well as the consequences of hit and run.
Table of Contents
What is a Hit and Run?
A hit and run is when one is involved in a car accident either with a pedestrian, another car, an animal, or a fixed object and then leaving the scene without stopping to identify yourself or offer assistance to anyone who might need assistance as a result of the accident.
In some states, the hit and run don’t have to occur on a highway or public road as most states extend hit and run laws to cover parking lot collisions. For instance, if you back into an unoccupied vehicle in a parking lot and fail to leave a note with your contact details on the windshield, the laws of most states treat this as a hit and run.
Can You Go to Jail for a Hit and Run?
The simple answer is yes, you can go to jail for a hit and run. Punishment for a hit and run could either be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
What is a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor charge is one of the hit and run consequences and it is less severe than a felony. A misdemeanor charge may vary from state to state depending on the circumstances.
However, you might be charged with a misdemeanor if any of the following occurs:
- You hit a car or object which caused damage and you flee from the scene
- You caused an accident without colliding with another car, and you left the scene
- The other driver causes the minor accident and you leave the scene.
Generally, if it was a minor hit and run with no injuries or death, a misdemeanor charge will apply. The misdemeanor charge may vary from state to state depending on the number of damages done.
What is a felony?
This involves a more serious incident of hit and run. If charged with a felony, you can either go to jail or pay a huge fine.
A hit and run felony charge also differs in each state. Usually, a hit and run resulting in severe injuries or death will be considered a felony. Some states will also consider a hit and run incident a felony if damages to property exceed a certain amount.
Penalties for a Hit and Run
Criminal penalties for a hit and run
The criminal penalties for leaving the scene of a car accident vary from state to state. Certain states classify the criminal penalties for a hit and run as either felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances.
In many states, felony hit and run is defined as leaving the scene of an accident where there is any type of injury to a person, be it a pedestrian or an occupant of a vehicle.
There can be severe penalties for felony hit and run. Some states impose hefty fines of about $5,000 – $20,000 and there’s very real potential for incarceration as punishment for a felony hit and run.
In many states, a felony hit and run is punishable by up to 15 years in prison this depends on the nature of the accident and the injuries that resulted.
Note, a hit and run might also be classified as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. Misdemeanors are punishable by a significant fine of up to $5,000 and also by up to 1 year in jail.
Administrative penalties for a hit and run
Aside from the criminal penalties for hit and run, almost every state imposes administrative penalties related to your driver’s license. These administrative penalties are often imposed via the individual state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and are in addition to any criminal punishment that might be imposed for a hit and run.
If you are convicted for a hit and run, it usually results in an automatic suspension or revocation of your driver’s license for a period of six months or three years in some states.
The penalty for hit and run may include a lifetime revocation of your driver’s license, this depends on the state in which you reside as well as the nature and damages of the incident.
Civil penalties for hit and run
If you have caused an accident, it’s possible that another person involved in the accident may sue you in court for the damages they suffered. Such a lawsuit may ask for monetary compensation for property damage, lost wages, and medical bills.
Of course, such a lawsuit is likely to happen anyway even if you didn’t commit a hit and run at the scene of the accident if you’re deemed at fault for the car accident. However, if you are liable for hit and run in addition to having caused the accident, the damages that a court orders you to pay will almost surely be increased.
Most states will impose “treble damages” on you – meaning that any damages awarded to the plaintiff are automatically tripled, mainly to punish the defendant’s bad behavior.
For instance, if the jury in a civil suit awards the plaintiff $10,000 in damages, the judge will automatically triple that amount to $30,000 because the hit and run amount to, particularly reckless and egregious conduct.
In most cases, treble damages of that nature are not covered by your car insurance policy. This means that you’ll have to pay that amount out of your own pocket.
Other penalties for a hit and run
A hit and run penalty doesn’t always have to be criminal, administrative, and civil. There are other types of penalties which is related to your insurance company.
Most insurance companies will almost certainly raise your rates if you are responsible for a hit and run. Some insurance companies may even cancel your entire insurance policy.
What should I do in a hit-and-run accident?
To know what to do in a hit and run accident you first of all need to know what the police do in a hit and run.
Generally, the police will attempt to locate you by collecting witness statements, reviewing nearby security footage, and by patrolling the area around the accident for a broken-down car or evidence of an accident.
Also, police will respond to the address associated with the registration of the car involved in the accident and if a suspect gives the other driver some information before leaving the scene or a witness happens to know the identity of the suspect, police will often use motor vehicle records to locate the address.
So, if you happen to cause a car accident and leave the scene of the accident, the police will be looking for you and will be requesting that you speak to them about the accident.
The right thing to do is to contact a knowledgeable hit and run attorney before speaking to the police.
How do I get out of a hit-and-run charge?
The fact that witnesses or a police officer say you didn’t stop immediately, or you didn’t take all the steps required after an accident, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be convicted.
The examples below will show you how you may be able to challenge this type of evidence:
- Example 1: You didn’t stop immediately because there’s no safe place to stop your car. The law says that if you stop as close as possible to the accident and return to the scene, you’ve not broken that part of the law.
- Example 2: You continued driving because you are unaware that the accident you were involved in resulted in any damage. Most times, it’s unclear if damage resulted and as such, you’d not be obligated to remain at the scene or exchange information.
- Example 3: You stopped at the scene of the accident, you and the other driver involved exchanged information, and then you left. After you left, the other driver began feeling dizzy, and eventually passed out, and was rushed to the hospital. You’re charged with a felony for failing to render assistance to the injured person. Since you didn’t know of the injury and you had no information that there had been an injury, you’re not guilty of the offense.
These are just a few examples of possible defenses. Because this is a serious charge, it is important you have the right lawyer on your side.
Hit and run is a serious offense and comes with lots of consequences. A charge of leaving the scene of an accident could be either a felony or a misdemeanor and you could go to jail for that. Your driver’s license might also be taken away from you and your insurance company might increase your premiums or even terminate your policy if you caused a hit and run.
The possible penalties for a hit-and-run conviction make it essential that you get legal help so, find an experienced hit-and-run attorney that can defend your rights.
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