What is a Hit-and-Run Offense?
A Hit-and-Run Offense occurs when an individual is involved in an accident and drives away from the scene. All drivers are legally obligated to ensure all parties are safe after an accident and that proper insurance information is exchanged. Avoiding this legal obligation can result in criminal charges, depending on what state it occurs in.
A Hit-and-Run isn’t limited to just vehicle-to-vehicle accidents; it can also occur if a driver is in an accident with a bicyclist, a pedestrian, a motorcyclist, or an unoccupied vehicle or structure.
Your legal obligation isn’t contingent based on whether or not you were at fault for the accident. Even if the other driver involved was at fault, you are still legally obligated to follow a few steps after the accident.
What Are My Legal Obligations After an Accident?
Individuals involved in a hit and run accident must take a few steps immediately following an accident to avoid criminal charges.
Move vehicles involved to a safe place that isn’t obstructing traffic if this option is available.
Seek medical assistance for all injured parties. If you or someone else is injured in the accident, you must attempt to render aid or request assistance for the injured parties.
If the other parties are present, you must exchange personal information, precisely your insurance information, so if either party needs to report the accident for insurance purposes, they have the correct information.
Suppose the other party isn’t present, such as hitting an unoccupied vehicle. In that case, you are still legally responsible for making a reasonable attempt at contacting the owner and letting them know if there is any damage. An example may be leaving the vehicle’s owner a note with your contact information.
Suppose you are involved in an accident that caused damage to personal property. In that case, you must also make a reasonable attempt to locate the owner of the personal property and give them your contact information. For example, if you are driving and run into a structure on someone’s property or damage the landscape, you must reasonably attempt to locate the property owner and share the details with them.
Is Leaving the Scene of an Accident Considered a Felony?
If an accident involving death or severe bodily injury and the individual chooses to leave the scene, this may result in felony charges. A third-degree felony in Texas can result in prison time from two to ten years and fines of up to $10,000.
A lesser felony charge may result if the injuries are less severe in a hit and run Texas accident. A lesser felony charge could still result in up to one year in jail or five years in prison and possibly a fine of up to $5,000.
When is Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Texas Considered a Misdemeanor?
If the total damages caused in the car accident cost more than $200, a class B misdemeanor may be charged, which can result in up to six months in jail. This can also apply if the driver hits an unoccupied vehicle or causes damage to a structure or landscape and fails to attempt to report it to the owner reasonably.
A class C misdemeanor may result if the damages caused cost less than $200, and this penalty can result in fines of up to $500. With nearly any actions causing at least $200 in damage to either structures or vehicles, it is imperative to exercise a reasonable attempt to locate the owner and let them know of the accident before leaving the scene.
Legal Options for Defense of Hit-and-Runs
If you have never been involved in an accident, you may not know the adrenaline that can occur following an accident. Sometimes, this adrenaline can cause the parties involved to make unreasonable decisions and later need to defend their actions.
In some cases, parties may not even be aware of the damages they caused. Perhaps you are in a busy parking ramp and pull out, scratching the car next to you and not realizing it until after the fact. This may result in hit-and-run charges that you may have a defense for if you didn’t know the damage you caused at the time.
Furthermore, individuals aren’t always aware of their legal responsibilities following an accident. If you are not aware and attempt to escape the situation to safety and are later charged with a hit-and-run offense, you may have a reasonable defense.
It is imperative to understand your rights and obligations should you be involved in a motor vehicle accident. This can help you to avoid a hit and run conviction or civil charges.
What if I Left the Scene of an Accident and Want Guidance?
Discussing the details immediately with an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential. Understanding your rights and options can be the difference between being charged with a misdemeanor or felony or effectively defending yourself and avoiding charges on your record.
First and foremost, discuss the situation with a trusted and experienced criminal defense attorney before you call the police or your insurance company. This can help to ensure you avoid inadvertently incriminating yourself.
Can I Avoid Criminal Charges?
No two situations are the same or will result in the same outcome. Speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately following an accident to ensure you are protecting yourself. Call our office at (254) 323-5506 to learn how we can best assist you.