Hit and Run Traffic Offenses
Any driver involved in an accident causing personal injuries or property damage is required by Virginia law to remain at the scene and provide identifying information to police and the other parties. Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious violation of the law as a felony with penalties that could include up to 10 years in prison. Motorists who face charges for a hit and run offense for not remaining at the scene of an accident need legal representation.
The Hampton Roads criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., have more than 70 years of combined experience as the region’s premier hit and run lawyers. Their knowledge of the law makes them capable of identifying defenses and using them successfully to achieve favorable results in a hit and run case.
What Is a Hit and Run Offense?
Virginia Code §46.2-894 makes it a criminal offense to collide with another vehicle or person and cause property damage or injuries without doing the following:
- Stop the vehicle as close to the location of the collision without interfering with traffic.
- Exchange names, addresses, driver’s license numbers and vehicle registration information with the other parties. The information must also be furnished to the police or other local law enforcement agency.
- Provide assistance to anyone injured in the collision by helping them obtain needed medical treatment.
Motorists who are too injured to comply with the reporting requirements must do so as soon after the accident as possible.
Passengers in vehicles involved in hit and run accidents could also face criminal charges. Virginia Code §46.2-895 imposes an obligation on passengers who are at least 16 years of age to report the accident to the police within 24 hours. This obligation applies to situations in which the driver flees without reporting the accident. Passengers who believe their driver is not complying with the law as far as reporting an accident should seek advice from hit and run attorneys as soon as possible to find out more about what their legal obligations might be and learn what they can do to satisfy them and avoid prosecution.
Drivers who collide with unattended vehicles or property, such as cars parked along the road or a fence or building, must comply with Virginia Code §46.2-896 and make a reasonable effort to locate the owner. Once found, the owner must be provided with the driver’s name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration information.
If the owner cannot be located by a driver, the driver must leave a note in a conspicuous place at the scene of the crash with the information required by the statute. Drivers must also report the accident to the police within 24 hours. Under Virginia Code §46.2-895, passengers can be charged with leaving the scene if they fail to report the accident knowing the driver failed to do so.
Penalties Associated With a Conviction in a Hit and Run Case
The hit and run lawyers at the Hampton offices of the Lee law firm understand the implications of charges arising from leaving the scene of an accident. Drivers violating Virginia Code §46.2-894 could face the following charges and penalties:
- Class 5 felony: A hit and run collision with property damage in excess of $1,000 or in which someone dies or is injured is punishable by a fine as high as $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison. The person’s license to drive can be revoked for one year.
- Class 1 misdemeanor: A hit and run collision with damage up to $1,000 to attended property is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500. A motorist’s license to drive can be suspended for up to six months if the damage was in excess of $500.
- Class 1 misdemeanor: A hit and run accident with unattended property that causes more than $500 in damage is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine up to $2,500 and a six-month suspension of the person’s license to drive.
- Class 1 misdemeanor: A hit and run accident causing damage to unattended property of $500 or less is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2,500.
- Class 4 misdemeanor: A hit and run that causes up to $250 in damage to unattended property is punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.
Passengers violating the law obligating them to report hit and run collisions could be sentenced to serve up to five years in prison and pay a fine not to exceed $2,500 for committing a Class 6 felony if the accident resulted in death or injury to another person. If no one is killed or injured, but there is damage in excess of $250 to attended or unattended property, the fine could be as high as $2,500 and the passenger could face up to 12 months in a local jail for committing a Class 1 misdemeanor. The misdemeanor conviction also includes suspension of the person’s driver’s license for up to six months.
Simply because the property damage is $250 or less does not mean a passenger who violates the law escapes being punished. The violation is a Class 4 misdemeanor, and the penalty is a fine that could be as high as $250.
Something passengers and drivers should keep in mind about convictions for leaving an accident scene is the long-term consequences of a criminal record. Felony and misdemeanor convictions result in a criminal record that shows up on background checks most employers routinely perform on applicants for employment.
What People Should Do if They Failed to Report an Accident
Hit and run accidents don't go away. Police investigate them until they find out the individuals who were responsible. Eventually, they are arrested and criminal charges are filed.
Reporting the accident is the best thing people can do to protect themselves against criminal charges. However, if too much time has elapsed since the accident, it is best for them to speak to competent hit and run attorneys before making any statements to police about the matter.
Statements made to police can be used against the person in a criminal prosecution. The ability to speak to an attorney before being questioned by police is a right a person facing charges for not reporting an accident should exercise.
Hampton Roads Hit and Run Lawyers
The traffic defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John W. Lee, P.C., are a person’s best source of legal advice and experienced guidance when confronted by a hit and run case. Set an appointment with one of four convenient offices near you serving Hampton Roads - Newport News, Hampton, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Find out more about what they can do by calling (757) 896-0868 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation.