Leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it and stopping to give aid to any injured victims is a serious criminal offense in Virginia. This can result in a person being charged with a hit and run crime. If you left the scene of an accident, you may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. Both misdemeanor and felony convictions are serious and come with harsh penalties and a permanent criminal record. However, with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can build a strong defense to the charges you face. A strong defense may result in the dismissal or reduction of your charges.
Possible Charges for Leaving the Scene of a Hit and Run Accident
Hit and run incidents can involve more than passenger vehicle accidents. They can include a driver hitting a motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian, or property. The following are common charges that may result from failing to stop at the scene of an accident:
- Failure to stop in the event of an accident resulting in injury or damage to attended property. Virginia Code § 46.2-894 requires any driver, regardless of fault, to stop at the scene of an accident that results in any property damage or personal injury and provide contact and vehicle information to the other driver, injured victims, or custodians of damaged property, or to law enforcement. It also requires the driver to provide help to any injured parties and to report.
- Passenger duty to report accident. Passengers may also have a duty to report an accident in Virginia under certain circumstances. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-895, if the driver fails to stop at the scene of an accident in violation of the above-cited law, a passenger who is 16 years old or older must report the accident within 24 hours from the time of the crash.
- Unattended property. In an accident in which no one is injured or killed, and the other vehicle or property involved in the accident is unattended, Virginia Code § 46.2-896 requires a driver to make a reasonable effort to locate the owner. If he is unable to do so, he must leave a note with his contact information at the accident scene and report the accident to the police within 24 hours.
- Passenger duty in an unattended property accident. If a driver fails to fulfill his obligations when involved in an unattended vehicle or property accident, a passenger who is 16 years old or older must report the accident within 24 hours under Virginia Code § 46.2-897.
Penalties for a Hit and Run Conviction
The penalty for your hit and run charge depends on whether you were the driver or passenger, whether anyone was injured or killed, and the amount of property damage that was caused. Here are the basic classifications of the crimes you may be charged with:
- Class 5 felony. You may be convicted of a Class 5 felony if you were the driver, the property or vehicle was attended, and the accident resulted in an injury, death, or property damage greater than $1,000.
- Class 6 felony. If you were the passenger in an accident with an attended vehicle that resulted in an injury or death, you may be convicted of a Class 6 felony.
- Driver misdemeanor charges. If you were the driver, you may be convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor if the property damage was less than $1,000 in an accident with attended property or $250 or more in the event of an accident involving damage to unattended property. The offense is a Class 4 misdemeanor if the property damage is less than $250.
- Passenger misdemeanor charges. A passenger may be convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor for failure to make the required reporting in the event of an accident with an attended vehicle that results in any property damage. If the property damage is less than $250 and the damaged property was unattended, the offense is a Class 4 misdemeanor.
You may face harsh criminal penalties as well as points on your driving record and the possible suspension of your driver’s license. Potential criminal sentences include:
- Class 1 misdemeanor. Jail time of up to twelve months and fines not to exceed $2,500.
- Class 4 misdemeanor. Fine of up to $250.
- Class 5 felony. Prison sentence of 1 to 10 years and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Class 6 felony. Prison sentence of 1 to 5 years and fines of $2,500 or less.
Given the permanent criminal record and harsh sentence you may face for a hit and run accident, in addition to the possible increase in your insurance rates, you cannot afford to go it alone. Let our experienced criminal defense attorneys help you build a strong defense to the charges you face. To learn what you can expect in your criminal proceedings and how we can assist you, fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.