Hit and Run Defenses
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How Is "Hit-and-Run" Defined?
Hit and run is usually defined as failing to stop and provide one’s name, contact information, and license number when involved in a vehicle collision. Most state laws require people to do this if they have been involved in any type of car, motorcycle, truck, or even bicycle accident. It’s also required even if the collision didn’t involve another vehicle but involved property or a pedestrian instead.
Hit and run also covers situations where the other party is not actually present at the time of collision. A common example of this is where a driver strikes an unoccupied car in a parking lot. In this situation, the driver may need to leave a note with their information on the damaged vehicle, and should file a police report when given the opportunity to do so. Hit and run is also common due to drivers having no insurance.
Hit and run statutes are sometimes called “Phantom Vehicle Laws” in some areas.
What Are Some Hit and Run Defenses?
Some common defenses to hit and run charges can include:
- Emergency situations: In some cases, hit and run is excusable if there is an ongoing emergency in progress, or if the accident was part of an attempt to prevent an emergency. However, courts usually judge these situations very strictly.
- Involuntary Intoxication: Voluntary intoxication usually isn’t an excuse for hit and run (such as when a person knowingly engages in drunk driving). However, involuntary intoxication can sometimes be a defense, especially where the intoxication has impaired the person’s consciousness or ability to make reasonable decisions. An example is where the person was given the wrong medication that had negative effects on them.
- Lack of knowledge: Generally, the defendant needs to be aware that they caused an injury or damage in order to be held liable. If they didn’t know that they caused an injury or property damage, and then left the scene, it may be difficult to hold them liable. However, they can be found negligent or even reckless if they should have known about the damage given the circumstances.
Thus, hit and run is somewhat difficult to defend against, especially if it’s clear that the person should have stopped and responded to the accident. Such charges typically require the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
If I Stop and Talk with the Other Driver, Does That Mean I’m Admitting I’m Guilty?
No. Courts have held that the duties required by hit & run statutes don’t violate a person’s constitutional right to be free from self-incrimination. In other words, stopping and giving a person your information after a collision is not the same thing as an admission of guilt.
In the same way, assisting a person who has been injured in a collision that you were part of does not mean that you are admitting fault for the accident. Determining liability for automobile collisions is a complex process that investigates many different factors, such as the traffic laws in the area, the state of mind of each driver involved, and the environmental conditions at the time of the accident.
What Are the Legal Consequences for Hit and Run?
This will also depend on the laws of each individual jurisdiction, which may vary by region. Hit and run is usually classified as a misdemeanor offense, resulting in some criminal fines and possible jail time for up to one year.
In more serious cases, hit and run can be classified as a felony, which is harder to expunge from one’s record, and also involves stricter legal penalties. Felony hit and run usually results if the accident caused great bodily injury, if it caused property damage above a certain dollar amount, or if it was a repeat or habitual offense. In some areas, hit and run is a felony if it causes any type of injury at all.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Hit and Run Defenses?
Contrary to what some may think, hit and run charges can lead to very severe criminal charges, not just civil complaints. If you need assistance with hit and run defenses, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area. Your attorney can provide you with valuable legal advice and professional representation in a court of law if needed.
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Last Modified: 05-27-2014 04:28 PM PDT
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