Charges for a hit and run crime may result whenever a driver causes or is involved in a collision with another vehicle, property, or person, and then fails to stop and provide their personal contact information. This may include items such as their:
- Driver’s license number;
- License plate number;
- Name of both their insurance provider and policy number; and
- Various other state statutory information.
Normally, hit and run charges usually result in misdemeanor criminal charges that may involve penal consequences like a short stay in jail and some amount of criminal fines.
There are certain circumstances, however, that may cause a hit and run charge to be elevated to a felony offense. This sometimes occurs in cases where a hit and run:
- Leads to the severe bodily injury or death of another person;
- Results in serious damages to property (note that criminal statutes may list the requisite dollar amount that the damage needs to exceed);
- Happens while evading the police or involves the striking of a police car or police officer;
- Involves driving under the influence (DUI) or where drunk driving is a factor; or
- Causes injury to an animal (this depends on the laws of a state).
When a hit and run is considered a felony, it can result in much harsher penalties, such as higher criminal fines and terms of imprisonment for at least a year or longer.
As mentioned, the circumstances that give rise to felony charges, along with the types of punishments that a defendant can receive, may vary from state to state.
In some states, felony hit and run charges may be categorized according to the degree of the crime involved. This is similar to how different states may classify homicide and murder charges.
For example, a felony hit and run that results in minor injuries may be deemed as a felony in the fifth degree. In contrast, a hit and run that leads to the death of another person, might be considered a felony in the second or third degree. Again, this will depend on the laws of each state.
This distinction of varying degrees may also have an impact on the type of sentencing consequences that a defendant can receive. Additionally, repeat offenses can alter the severity of the legal ramifications as well.
For vehicle accidents that occur on public roads, the responsibility of a driver to stop and provide the proper information is generally more obvious. This is especially true when it involves a car-to-car collision.
Also, many drivers might be more hesitant to flee the scene of an accident that occurred on a public road. This may be because they are surrounded by more cars, which means there are more witnesses.
When a hit and run occurs on a private road or in a private area, however, the duty to provide one’s contact information still exists.
Even if the incident did not involve a car-to-car collision and the accident only caused damages to a person’s property, the driver must either leave a note or contact the property owner to alert them of the damage. Felony charges may result from severely damaged property.
Thus, there is virtually no difference as to whether the hit and run occurred on a public road or in a private area. Regardless of whether the driver caused the hit and run or was involved in one, they still have a duty to remain at the scene and exchange information for any damages that resulted from a collision.
Remember, the most important thing to do when someone is involved in a hit and run is to not flee the scene of the accident. You should provide the necessary contact information, and at the very least, leave a note. Otherwise, there is a risk that your actions can lead to jail time.
Finally, if there is no one around to exchange information with and you do not have the means to leave a note, it may be in your best interest to contact the police. This way the police can document the incident and know that you attempted to take the proper steps to avoid facing hit and run charges.
As is the case for any type of felony charge, felony hit and run is an extremely serious criminal offense. Thus, if you are facing charges for a felony hit and run, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney immediately.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide you with relevant legal advice, prepare and handle any documents for your case, participate on your behalf in any plea negotiation deals, and represent you in court if necessary.
Criminal laws can vary widely from state to state, but having a qualified, local defense attorney on your side can help make the process run more smoothly and hopefully, more successfully.