Pittsburgh Hit & Runs: When You Can Be Charged
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.
Call (412) 281-2146 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free initial consultation.
Criminal Hit and Run Charges
Fleeing the scene isn’t grounded in the fact that you were in an accident. 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. Instead, hit and run charges are focused on your conduct in the moments after the collision.
Every US state has legal requirements for motorists, which typically include:
- Exchanging contact information with other drivers;
- Getting help for someone who’s hurt;
- Notifying police or calling 911;
- Leaving a note for an unattended vehicle that was damaged; and,
- Completing a report, either at the scene or within a specific time period afterward.
Your legal obligations may also vary depending on the circumstances of the collision. For instance, the dollar value of the property damage may trigger certain requirements if no one was hurt. However, in every jurisdiction, you’re expected to remain at the scene, call for help, and fulfill other statutory duties if someone was injured or killed.
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.
For leaving the scene under severe circumstances, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. Typically, a conviction could result in less than one-year incarceration, fines, and/or probation. Still, it will be reflected on your criminal record. If you flee the site of a fatal accident, it’s likely you’ll face felony charges. If convicted, a judge could issue a sentence involving:
- Imprisonment of one year or more;
- A fine that could run in the thousands;
- Restitution, which means paying victims for their losses; and,
- Many other penalties, depending on state law.
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.
How a Traffic Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve already left the scene and the time to report has expired, it might be wise to turn yourself in before the police come after you. Cooperation may lead to leniency in some situations. However, you should not take action without first talking to an attorney. Your lawyer can advise you on what to do based upon your unique circumstances.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
If you’re facing criminal charges stemming from a hit and run accident in Pittsburgh, time is of the essence. An experienced lawyer can review your circumstances and determine the best strategy for fighting the charges.
You have a better chance of obtaining a positive result when you get a lawyer involved as early as possible.
To learn more about your rights, contact a traffic violations attorney to set up a consultation today.