The term is self-explanatory: a hit-and-run describes situations where you’re involved in an accident, but you don’t stick around long enough to fulfill your obligations after a crash.
Some jurisdictions refer to the situation as fleeing or leaving the scene of an accident. The requirements vary according to where the accident happens and the nature of the collision, but a Pittsburgh hit-and-run exposes you to possible jail, fines, and a suspended license.
It’s understandable that you may be scared after a collision or want to avoid the hassle, particularly if no one was injured. However, the smart move is to obey the law if you’re involved in an accident. But you do have legal options if you already left the scene. The first step is to contact an experienced traffic lawyer. At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we know what you’re dealing with and how to help. Let us review the situation and advise you about your rights.
Your Responsibilities After an Accident in Pennsylvania
You should familiarize yourself with the legal requirements involved with a motor vehicle crash. Pennsylvania’s statute imposes a duty to provide information if the accident caused injury or death to any person, or if there was property damage to any vehicle. The law requires you to:
- Give your name and contact information;
- Offer your vehicle registration number;
- Show your driver’s license; and,
- Exhibit paperwork regarding financial responsibility.
You’re obligated to provide these details to anyone involved in the crash and to a police officer responding to the incident. In addition, you also have a duty to render assistance to individuals who suffered injuries, such as seeking medical care for the victim. If you fail to follow the required protocol, you could be charged with fleeing the scene of an accident, also known as a hit-and-run.
Criminal Hit and Run Charges
Criminal hit-and-run charges don’t arise just because you were in an accident. Instead, fleeing the scene charges are focused on your conduct in the moments after the collision. Getting into a crash isn’t a crime in itself, though there may be some legal consequences if you were driving drunk, on a suspended license, or engaged in other criminal activity at the time.
There are two common types of hit and run charges in Pittsburgh:
Hit and Run Resulting in Injury or Death
If someone is injured, no matter how serious or killed in an accident you were involved in, you must park somewhere safe and exchange information that includes your name, address, and insurance company. Additionally, you need to contact the police.
Importantly, you also need to assist anyone who is injured. If they need or ask for medical care, you should provide first aid, call an ambulance, or try to get them to a hospital.
Hit And Run with Property Damage
In accidents where there was damage to another vehicle or property, you must stop, park somewhere safe, and contact the police.
If the owner is not present, you need to try to find them or leave a note where it can be easily found, with information about the accident and how to contact you.
If the owner is present, you need to give them your:
- License plate number
- Insurance information
- Vehicle registration number
If there is property damage and you hit and run, you can be punished with up to 90 days in jail as well as a $200 or more in fines, four (4) points on your driving record, and a possible six-month license suspension.
Penalties for Leaving the Scene of an Accident
At a minimum, you can expect a civil citation or traffic ticket for failure to comply with reporting requirements. The fine may not seem to be a big deal, but keep in mind that there could be implications for your driving privileges in states that operate on a points system. It may be possible to avoid accumulating points by attending a driver’s safety course, but these classes can cost hundreds of dollars in some cases.
Failure to obey the law may also lead to criminal charges, but the exact nature of the case depends on the circumstances of the accident. If you fled in a crash involving only property damage, you could be arrested for a Third Degree Misdemeanor. For a conviction, a court may order one year of incarceration, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both. However, the charges and potential punishment increase for more severe collisions.
- Failure to remain at the scene, offer information, and render assistance is a First Degree Misdemeanor if someone was hurt. The penalties for a conviction include up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $10,000.
- If the victim suffers serious bodily injury, you could face Third Degree Felony charges for leaving the scene. Mandatory minimums apply, so a judge must order 90 days’ incarceration and a fine no less than $1,000.
- When the accident involves a fatality, a violation of the law is a Second Degree Felony. You could be sentenced to a minimum of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of at least $2,500.
As with a misdemeanor, your criminal record will reflect a felony conviction. You could have trouble finding employment, lose a professional license, and suffer other collateral consequences.
What to Do if You Leave the Scene of an Accident in Pennsylvania
If you leave the scene of an accident when someone is injured or killed, and do not provide assistance, exchange information, or phone the police, depending on the circumstances you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Your penalties can include prison, costly fines, a criminal record, and points on your driving record.
Criminal traffic violations such as leaving the scene of an accident are serious, and best handled by an experienced traffic defense attorney. Your lawyer should have the insight and resources needed to review the evidence, interpret the law, and build a defense that can produce an optimal outcome for you.
By working with a lawyer you can possibly garage to deal with the matter through insurance or by paying for any repairs. This could help you avoid criminal charges altogether or mitigate the situation to something more manageable than possible jail time and living with a criminal conviction.
In addition, your attorney will develop a defense based on the circumstances of your case. This may include gathering evidence to show that you actually obeyed the traffic laws.
Get Legal Assistance Right Away
You might assume the damage is done if you’ve already left the scene of an accident, but that’s not always the case. It may be possible to avoid the harsh consequences, but it’s critical to work with an experienced attorney. Your lawyer can determine whether your situation falls under an exception to the legal duties after an accident. For instance, you can leave the scene to head to a police station to file a report if:
- None of the other motorists involved in the crash are in a condition to accept the information you were willing to provide; or,
- The accident resulted in property damage to a vehicle that was unattended, so you were unable to fulfill your legal obligation.
In addition, a lawyer may be able to assist with other options for addressing hit and run charges. Under certain circumstances, it may be advisable to contact police before they reach out to you. Cooperation is often a positive factor when it comes to criminal charges and sentencing. Plus, you could have a defense to leaving the scene allegations. You should trust your attorney to handle the complex legal issues and protect your rights.
Accused of Leaving the Scene of an Accident in PA? We Can Help
If you were involved in an accident where someone was hurt or property was damaged, and you panicked and left the scene without stopping, you can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Mistakes happen, and you probably regret your impulse to leave, however, Pennsylvania has very specific actions you must take after an accident. If you hit and run without following these steps, you can face jail, heavy fines, and loss of your license.
There is a lot an experienced Pittsburgh traffic lawyer can do and it could be the difference in resolving the matter favorably and with minimal impact on your life. Your rights, license, job, and record are at stake and you need the best defense to keep them. Let Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys fight for you and use the strongest defense available to get your Leaving the Scene of an Accident charge reduced or dismissed.