When car accidents happen, the drivers of both vehicles typically pull off to the side of the road, make sure no one is injured, call the police (to obtain a police report), check out any damage to the vehicles, and exchange contact and insurance information. The stress and anxiety of being involved in a car accident, however, can send some motorists into fight or flight mode – and they leave the scene of the accident. In Texas, leaving the scene of an accident is against the law.
Hit and Run Charges
If you are involved in a car accident and leave the scene of the accident, you can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Depending on the severity of the accident, the charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. The associated punishments vary along with the charges and include:
- An accident that results in property damage of up to $200 total (to the occupied vehicle or vehicles involved) is a Class C misdemeanor that carries a fine of $500.
- If the accident leads to more than $200 in damages, the charge can be a Class B misdemeanor that can carry up to 6 months in jail. Generally, if it is a first offense, however, the punishment includes probation and/or license suspension.
- If the accident in question results in minor injuries, it is a felony that can carry up to a year in county jail – or up to 5 years in state prison – with a fine of up to $5,000.
- If the accident leads to a serious injury or death, the charge could be for a 3rd-degree felony, which can carry anywhere from 2 to 10 years in prison.
The fact is that charges related to leaving the scene of the accident can be quite serious and should always be taken seriously.
Potential Defenses in a Hit & Run Case
If you are facing hit and run charges, it is critical that you bring your strongest legal defense. Viable defenses include:
I was not aware that I was in an accident.
If you have ever been in a car accident, you know how quickly they can happen and how startling the aftermath can be. If you experience a jolt to your car, but you are able to keep driving, you might think that you hit a pothole or animal – rather than having been in a minor car accident.
Only my car was damaged.
If you were in an accident in which your car was the only one that seemed to be damaged, you are not required to stay at the scene.
It was not me
Mistaken identification happens frequently, and eyewitness accounts can be extremely flawed. Unfortunately, you will need to bring just as strong a defense for a charge that is mistaken.