What to Do If You Leave the Scene of an Accident
It can be very tempting to leave the scene of an accident in Pennsylvania, especially if no one was hurt and property damage was minimal. Many drivers simply don’t want to deal with the hassles of police paperwork when the crash seems to be nothing more than a fender bender. Some motorists might want to avoid other legal entanglements associated with the collision, such as driving drunk or on a suspended license. Regardless of the underlying circumstances, driving away from an accident is a serious offense. You could face fines and incarceration for a hit and run, which can be charged as a felony in some cases.
If you were involved in a collision and fled the scene, you might assume that your defense options are limited. However, there may be strategies to fight the charges. Our team at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can advise you on the alternatives, so please call (412) 281-2146 to schedule a free case evaluation with a Pittsburgh traffic violations attorney. Some tips on what to do if you leave the scene of an accident may also be helpful.
Understand Your Duty Under Pennsylvania Law
At the outset, 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.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Failure to obey the law may 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 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.
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.
Consult with a Pittsburgh Traffic Violations Lawyer About Hit and Run Accidents
It may be a criminal offense to leave the scene of an accident, but you may have options to resolve the charges with quick action and skilled legal representation. For more information, please contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 or use our online contact form. We can set up a no-cost consultation to review your situation and determine the best way to proceed.