A hit-and-run accident occurs when an individual operating a motor vehicle collides with a pedestrian or another vehicle and does not stop. Leaving the scene of an accident, also referred to as hit and run, is a crime.
An individual can be charged with a hit and run if they strike any of the following and then drive away:
- Another vehicle;
- A pedestrian;
- An object; or
- A piece of property.
Only the driver of a vehicle can be charged with a hit and run. In some states, however, a passenger vehicle involved in an accident where the driver left the scene may face the consequences if they fail to report the accident within a certain amount of time.
There are some circumstances in which it is acceptable for an individual to leave the scene. For example, an individual may be required to leave the immediate scene because staying there would be dangerous.
This may apply when there is a fire or explosion risk. It may also be necessary for an individual to leave the scene so that they can obtain help or contact emergency services.
Witnesses or bystanders to an accident are not legally required to remain at the scene. Although individuals may remain to call for help or provide first aid, they are also free to leave.
In a jurisdiction such as Nevada, the law requires any individual who causes an accident to stop. What an individual is required to do following the accident depends on the circumstances that surround the accident.
What are the Penalties for a Hit and Run?
There are numerous reasons why an individual may be involved in a hit-and-run. The most common reason for this is that the driver is not carrying adequate insurance or is wanted for other crimes.
Many automobile accidents also result in traffic citations if they occur as a result of distracted driving. The penalties an individual may face for a hit-and-run charge vary by state.
Hit-and-run accidents may also lead to more serious criminal charges than simple traffic citations. A hit-and-run accident that results in major property damage is often classified as a misdemeanor.
If a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor hit and run, they may face the following:
- Criminal fines of up to $5,000;
- One year in jail; or
- A combination of both.
In addition, almost every state imposes administrative penalties related to the driver’s license of the offending party. The offending driver may also face a civil lawsuit for damages if the other driver sustained any injuries or property damage.
A plaintiff, or the injured party, may also be entitled to a monetary award that is meant to compensate them for any:
- Medical expenses;
- Damage to their vehicle;
- Emotional distress; and
- Other types of damages.
An offending driver, or the defendant, would be responsible for these damages. Hit and run crimes that may result in felony hit and run charges instead of misdemeanor hit and run charges if the offense involves:
- Serious bodily harm;
- Serious property damage;
- Evading law enforcement; or
Some jurisdictions organize felony hit-and-run charges into different degrees, for example, a felony in the fifth degree.
Will I Get into Legal Trouble if I Damage Property and Then Just Leave?
Yes, an individual can get into legal trouble if they damage property and then leave. Nevada laws require an individual who causes an accident and property damage to notify the owner of the property of the damage immediately.
The perpetrator is also required to claim responsibility for the damage they caused. If an individual leaves the accident before notifying anyone that the accident occurred, it is classified as a misdemeanor hit-and-run.
Am I Responsible If I Cause Bodily Injury or Death and Leave the Scene?
Yes, an individual is responsible if they cause bodily injury or death and leave the scene. A driver who causes an accident resulting in at least one injury or death must help the victim.
This help may be provided by calling the police or for emergency assistance.
What Is a DUI Hit and Run?
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs occurs when an individual operates a motor vehicle while drunk or high. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level limit to operate a motor vehicle in the State of Nevada is 0.08 percent.
A DUI hit and run occurs when an individual flees a crime scene and is suspected of being under the influence when that accident occurred. A DUI hit and run may involve property damage, injury, or death to the victim.
What Is the Criminal Punishment for a Misdemeanor Hit and Run in Nevada?
In Nevada, fleeing the scene of a crime that caused property damage is a misdemeanor. The punishment a convicted individual may face includes:
- Six months in county jail;
- $1,000 fine; or
- A fine and county jail time.
Are There Any Defenses for a Hit and Run?
It may be difficult to find a legal defense for a hit-and-run accident. Some defenses may be available, but they do not always provide a complete release from liability resulting from their decision to flee the scene, including:
- Involuntary intoxication or diminished capacity: if an individual believes they were drugged before a hit-and-run accident, they may be able to use involuntary intoxication as a defense to the hit-and-run charge against them;
- An example of this would be if the defendant believes they were drugged, which resulted in them becoming involuntarily intoxicated and then becoming involved in the hit-and-run accident;
- It is unlikely that this defense can be successfully used, although it has been used;
- Responding to an emergency: Responding to an emergency may be an effective defense if the defendant fled the accident scene because they were driving to the hospital or another location because of an emergency, for example, driving someone in labor to the hospital;
- Ultimately, it is up to the authorities of that specific jurisdiction to determine whether the circumstances constituted an actual emergency to excuse the defendant’s failure to remain at the scene and provide the required information; or
- Lack of knowledge: This defense arises when an individual leaves a vehicle accident scene thinking there has been no damage to property or injuries to other individuals;
- These drivers may still be found responsible for negligence or reckless driving; and
- In addition, it may be difficult to establish the driver was unaware that they caused injury to someone else or property damage with their vehicle.
Contact an attorney if you have any questions about any potential defenses that might affect your legal rights or the outcome of your case.
Should I Talk to an Attorney about My Hit and Run Charge?
It is nerve-wracking enough to be involved in an automobile accident. The last thing you need is to be accused of fleeing the scene after you caused an accident.
If you have been charged with hit and run in Nevada, it is essential to consult with a Nevada criminal attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can advise you of the consequences you may face and what defenses may be available in your case.