Leaving the scene of an accident is a serious crime in Virginia. In most circumstances, a hit-and-run will result in a felony charge against you. You can also lose your license after a conviction as well. You will need an experienced Prince William County hit-and-run lawyer to protect your rights—and your future.
Prince William County hit & run defense lawyer Michael Pignone, and his staff with the Law Offices of Michael Pignone have helped good people like you get out of bad situations since 1995. We search for ways to help our clients put their mistakes behind them as quickly and easily as possible. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Prince William County Hit & Run Defense Lawyers Explains Your Duties After an Accident
Drivers flee from accident scenes for several reasons, but the primary reason is fear. Sometimes people do not legitimately know they struck an object. However, running from an accident scene is most often the result of panic and fear.
Drivers who run from an accident scene fear the repercussions of getting into an accident. Even if the accident was not their fault, people sometimes run because:
- They might be intoxicated,
- They have no valid license,
- The car is not theirs, or
- The driver is too scared to stop out of fear for their personal safety.
Giving into your fear can make matters worse. The law requires you to stop even if you did not cause the accident. As you will read below, the law places the obligation to stop and report the accident on motorists and passengers, regardless of who might have caused the accident.
What Must You Do After an Accident?
Public safety mandates people stop and report accidents so injured people can get help. Virginia law requires motorists to stop as close to the accident scene as possible without obstructing traffic. Stopping “as soon as possible” leaves some room for interpretation. You should stop where it is safe and call the police if you are able.
Once stopped, you must report your name, address, driver’s license number, and registration number to the local or state police or the pedestrian involved if they are in a condition to comprehend the situation. You have to give your information to the driver, any occupant of the other vehicle, and the owner of any damaged property. You have to render medical aid to any person injured in the accident. The statute says that you must bring the injured person to a physician, hospital, or surgeon if the person needs medical assistance or if they request help. Calling 911 and asking for an ambulance is the safest thing to do in this situation.
If you also sustained injuries in the crash, you have some time to file an accident report with either the local or state police. The law states that you must file the crash report within a reasonable time. You have to send the report to all other individuals involved.
Interestingly, passengers have a duty under Virginia law to report accidents to state or local police within 24 hours if the driver did not report the crash.
Prince William County Hit & Run Defense Attorney Explains What You Need to Do if Your Accident Involves Unattended Damaged Property
You have a duty to report damage to unattended property to the owner. While you might be tempted to take off, Virginia law says that you must make a reasonable effort to locate the owner of property damaged in an accident. A typical example involves hitting a parked car in a parking lot. You have to take reasonable steps to find that person and provide your name, address, license plate number, and driver’s license number, just as you must do if someone is hurt. The law allows you to leave a note in a conspicuous place, but you must also file a police report within 24 hours. You have a reasonable time to notify the owner of the damaged property if you suffered an injury and could not do so at the time of the crash.
As with an accident involving injuries, Virginia law requires a passenger who is 16 or older to file a police report if the driver did not stop after hitting and damaging another’s property.
The severity of the accident dictates the potential penalties you face. You will face a Class 5 felony charge if the hit-and-run accident results in death, a personal injury, or property damage exceeding $1,000. In Virginia, a Class 5 felony carries a punishment of 1 to 10 years in state prison. However, the judge or jury could elect to imprison you in the county jail for no more than 12 months and assess a fine of no more than $2,500.
Damage to property that amounts to less than $1,000 is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A person convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor faces up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
There are other penalties as well. According to the Virginia DMV, failing to stop at a crash scene is a six-point violation on your driving record. Demerit points stay on your record for two years even though the conviction stays on your record for 11 years. You can work your demerit points off faster if you take a driver improvement course. However, the DMV could suspend your license if you already have demerit points or if the DMV considers you to be a dangerous driver.
You should be aware that these adverse consequences on your driving record are in addition to the punishment you receive in court.
Need Help from a Prince William County Hit-and-Run Lawyer?
Attorney Michael Pignone has the experience you need to reduce your chances of getting convicted for a hit-and-run accident. Since 1995, Attorney Pignone has helped over 5,000 clients out of tough situations just like yours. He and his team with the Law Offices of Michael Pignone will work hard to find the best defense strategy for your case. Contact us today to find out more.
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