Being in a car accident is stressful, but being slapped with hit-and-run charges in addition to everything else can cause outright panic.
In the State of Texas – and every state throughout the nation – it is almost always against the law to leave the scene of an accident. However, it is not unusual for people to panic in the face of an accident. If that panic translates to fleeing the scene, it can lead to a hit-and-run charge.
If you’ve been charged with a hit-and-run crime, don’t wait to reach out for the skilled legal counsel of an experienced Killeen hit-and-run attorney.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re facing a hit-and-run charge, you naturally have questions. Finding answers to some of the questions people in your situation ask most frequently can help you find your way through this stressful situation.
What is a hit-and-run charge?
A hit-and-run charge in Texas applies when a motorist fails to stop at the scene of an accident to render aid if needed and to provide their contact information to the other driver.
When a driver hits another vehicle or is otherwise responsible for an accident, he or she is legally required to stop. Even if the vehicle is unattended and the owner can’t be found, leaving a note with the appropriate information is a legal requirement.
What contact information am I required to share after an accident?
After an accident, motorists are required to stop and share all the following information:
The motorist’s name
The motorist’s address
The motorist’s vehicle registration number (VIN)
The motorist’s license plate number
The motorist’s driver’s license number – if requested
The motorist’s insurance information
Each of these is relevant to the ensuing car accident claim. If you have more questions on what steps you should take next, contact a skilled Killeen hit-and-run attorney.
What kind of aid is required after an accident?
When involved in a car accident, motorists are required to stop and render aid if anyone is hurt. In this situation, rendering aid entails doing whatever you can to help the injured party. This help may include calling 911, alerting the authorities to the problem, or even simply staying with the injured person and doing what you can to ensure their safety.
Motorists are also responsible for taking whatever actions are needed to help ensure that the accident scene doesn’t pose a serious safety risk to others. This action can include alerting traffic of the crash site by setting up warning lights and cones.
If there is something that a motorist can do to help the injured party, such as performing CPR or covering them for warmth, he or she should do so. The 911 operator will guide callers through the process for those unsure of what to do.
What is considered a hit and run?
Texas hit-and-run laws break down into three basic categories.
Hit and Run Car Accident Involving an Unattended Vehicle
If the hit-and-run charge is related to hitting an unattended vehicle or another kind of property, such as a mailbox or fence, the motorist is required to stop, attempt to find the property owner, and share the required information with them. If finding the owner isn’t possible, securing a note with the necessary information to the damaged property is a requirement.
Hit and Run Car Accident Involving Another Vehicle
If the car accident involves another vehicle on the road, motorists are required by law to stop their cars safely out of the line of traffic as close to the accident scene as possible, to assess any injuries and potential risk to others on the road, and to share the necessary contact information with one another.
If no one is injured and the damage is relatively minor, this may be the end of each driver’s obligations – beyond any ensuing car accident claim. Ultimately, you are not required to call the authorities unless the damage is above $1,000, but with the cost of body work, even a minor fender bender can rack up more than this in damages.
Motorists are also required to call the police in all of the following situations:
At least one of the vehicles can’t be moved.
Someone has been injured or killed in the accident.
One of the drivers is suspected by the other of being impaired.
Hit and Run Car Accident Involving an Injury
If the accident involves at least two cars and someone is injured in the process, both drivers are required to stop and address the situation by altering the authorities, rendering whatever aid is possible, ensuring that the accident does not pose a serious risk to others on the road to the degree possible, and sharing the required contact information with one another.
The more serious the accident is, the more serious the hit-and-run charge will be.
Is a hit and run a felony?
While not all hit and run charges are felony charges, they can be. The breakdown of the charge is as follows:
If the hit and run involves only property damage – whether the vehicle was occupied or not – and the total associated costs are less than $200, the charge is a Class C misdemeanor, which can lead to a fine of up to $500.
If the hit and run involves only property damage – whether the vehicle was occupied or not – and the total associated costs are more than $200, the charge is a Class B misdemeanor, which can lead to fines of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days.
If the hit and run leaves someone injured but not seriously injured, it can lead to a third-degree felony charge, which carries up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
If the hit and run leaves someone seriously injured, it can lead to a second-degree felony charge, which carries up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
If the hit and run proves fatal, it can lead to a first-degree felony charge, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Is hit and run a felony? It certainly can be charged as a felony, and having skilled legal representation on your side – regardless of the charge – is always to your advantage. Contact a seasoned Killeen criminal defense lawyer for the guidance you need for your case.
Can you go to jail for a hit and run conviction?
You can go to jail for a hit and run felony conviction, but the same is true for a hit and run charge that is brought as a Class B misdemeanor, which carries up to 180 days in jail. The more serious the charge, the more serious the potential prison sentence.
Is a misdemeanor such a big deal?
Having a misdemeanor conviction on your record means having a criminal conviction that – in addition to landing you in jail – can seriously affect your future in all the following ways:
A conviction can negatively affect your overall social standing.
A conviction can make it hard to get a new job or keep your current job.
A conviction can affect your professional licensure.
A conviction can affect your ability to further your education by leaving you ineligible for a federal student loan.
A conviction can make it difficult to rent a home or obtain a home loan.
Never underestimate the seriousness of a hit and run charge.
Should I admit fault if I’m charged with a hit and run?
You should not admit fault if charged with a hit and run, regardless of the situation. Even if you think you may be responsible for the accident in question, this determination should be made based on the facts and evidence involved.
If the police are questioning you about a hit-and-run accident, the first order of business is invoking your right to remain silent – and then remaining silent – and invoking your right to an attorney. A skilled Killeen hit-and-run attorney will help you respond to the police’s questions without jeopardizing your rights.
What should I do if I think I may have committed a hit and run?
If you think you may have inadvertently or accidentally left the scene of an accident or if you panicked and did leave the scene of an accident, the most important first step you can take is reaching out to a formidable hit-and-run accident lawyer as quickly as possible. Even calling your car insurance provider is ill-advised – they record all calls, and whatever you say can be used against you if a criminal case is forthcoming.
It is important to point out that the police may not be able to prove anything without your admission, and you are not required to incriminate yourself. Before blurting out your guilt, seek legal guidance.
Your savvy hit-and-run Killeen attorney will carefully assess your unique situation. From here, they will help you take the steps necessary to protect your legal rights while remaining on the right side of the law.
How do I get out of a hit and run charge in Texas?
If you are ultimately charged with hit and run, the best approach to take is working closely with a dedicated Killeen hit-and-run attorney from the outset.
Your attorney will gather and compile all the available evidence in your case in their focused efforts to build your strongest defense. Your attorney will also help you make the right decisions for you throughout the legal process and will fiercely advocate for a favorable case resolution that negatively impacts your future as little as possible – if at all.
By having legal counsel in your corner from the get-go, you help to ensure that you avoid the mistakes that can lead to negative legal consequences.
What do the police do in response to hit and run accidents?
When the police are called to the scene of a hit-and-run accident, they first assess the situation and make sure that any injured parties receive the medical attention they need. From there, they consider all the available evidence in their efforts to identify the driver who hit and ran. This investigation can include all the following methods:
Consulting with the driver and occupants of the car that remains at the scene
Scoping out any dashcam footage or security camera footage that may be available
Consulting with any other drivers who may have stopped in the aftermath of the accident
If someone at the scene – or someone who contacts the authorities later – jotted down, memorized, or shot a picture of the alleged hit-and-run driver’s license plate, it can make the matter of identifying the motorist far less challenging.
However, just because a motorist’s vehicle was involved in an accident doesn’t mean the owner was behind the wheel at the time. In other words, every piece of evidence is just one piece in the puzzle of determining fault.
Is an attorney really necessary when facing hit-and-run charges?
Yes, having an attorney who has a wealth of experience defending drivers who have been accused of a hit and run is necessary if you are interested in obtaining the best possible outcome in your case. Without professional legal guidance, you’re far more vulnerable to a negative resolution that can derail your future.
What are potential defenses for hit and run charges?
Your defense will be unique to the specific circumstances involved, but defense strategies in the face of hit-and-run charges tend to fall into one of several basic categories:
It wasn’t you. The police may simply have the wrong person.
You weren’t aware of the accident. We’ve all struck a small animal on the road, felt the hit, and kept going. Car accidents with other vehicles don’t always announce themselves, and it’s not beyond the scope of reason that you simply didn’t know you were involved in an accident.
You didn’t know that anyone was injured, which can decrease the level of the charge.
You were responding to an emergency. If you were in the middle of your own emergency, such as rushing someone to the hospital, it can mitigate a hit-and-run charge.
You were involuntarily intoxicated, such as if someone slipped something in your drink that you were unaware of.
A skilled Killeen criminal defense attorney will help you choose the defense strategy that will best fit your case.
Look to an Experienced Killeen Hit and Run Attorney for the Help You Need
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a practiced hit-and-run lawyer who has the experience, legal insight, and skill to help. Don’t wait to learn more by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 today.